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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Returning home, a young woman expresses love for Mexico with a grand mezcalería

During the worst of COVID, Alicia worked diligently to transform part of a Mérida mansion into a beautiful restaurant and bar.

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Mary Arda
Mary Arda
Mary Arda is a former broadcast news director who has written for various media platforms. She's a content strategist and PR professional who has penned articles for CEOs and politicians. Mary has performed in open mics and is an active member of the New York Writers Coalition, where her poetry has been published in anthologies.
During the worst of COVID, Alicia worked on every detail of Dos Diez, a new mezcalería in Mérida. Photo: Mary Arda / Yucatán Magazine

A grand colonial facade invites you to cross tall, dark green doors that lead to a place reminiscent of the early 1900s. The vast colonial space, part of an impressive mansion that once covered an entire block, captured the attention of a young woman who yearned for the Mexico she left at 16 and kept in her heart.

In 2018, when scrolling through her iPhone while sitting on the beach at Playa del Carmen, an ad for Mérida popped up. The colonial city images she saw were so compelling that she spent hours researching the city. She quickly fell in love with the pictures of a city that appeared locked in time and steeped in its history. A few days later, she was at a hotel in Mérida’s Centro Histórico, falling deeper in love with the quintessential Mexico she’d dreamed of when studying in the United States.

Mérida gave her the place to set in motion a business idea. Alicia knew mezcal had reached new heights of popularity in recent years. She’d been thinking about opening a mezcalería, something unique from the many popping up around the country. Something more regional in its offering and global in its appeal. She wanted to represent all of Mexico.

Dos Diez was born in 2021. It survived the pandemic that closed doors and shuttered communities across the globe. During the worst of COVID, Alicia worked diligently on every detail of Dos Diez.

I met Alicia at Dos Diez on a Monday afternoon. We sat at a small table by the beautifully designed bar that showcased a wide variety of spirits. We toured its lush gardens, the San Antonio tasting room with the patron saint standing tall, and the kitchen separated by glass walls, revealing the chef at work. There is a lovely pool area, upstairs living quarters, and ample space toward the back that’s in the works for future projects. A rooftop offers a bird’s-eye view of La Mejorada and its surroundings.

Customers take a break at the new Dos Diez mezcalería in Mérida’s La Mejorada neighborhood. Photo: Mary Arda / Yucatán Magazine

Is there a reason behind the business name? Dos Diez doesn’t relate to the address, so there must be some meaning.

Dos Diez is the area code for San Antonio, Texas. The place that I called home from the ages of 16 to 29. A city that, even though it belongs to the United States, is full of Mexican history. Those years in San Antonio were crucial. It’s where I left the child behind and became a woman. I learned to belong in San Antonio but not lose my Mexican identity. I was surrounded by some cultural appropriation that had become popular outside of Mexico.

Tell me about how you ended up in San Antonio and about your experience there.

We had family involved with the American embassy in Mexico City. An uncle thought it would be good for me to go to the States and learn English, so he connected me to a very good friend who later became my tutor. Shortly after, my parents retired and made a move to San Antonio so that I could finish my studies. After high school, I entered the University of the Incarnate Word, where I studied International Affairs and quickly became involved with the World Affairs Council of San Antonio, the Mexican Consulate, and the San Antonio and Mexico friendship council (SAMFCO). I loved representing Mexico in the United States. I then spent some time working with SAMFCO, helping to promote a growing relationship between San Antonio and Mexico.

Your career in international affairs took off. It must have been wonderful to work in your field, representing your place of birth. Why did you not stay in San Antonio and continue your career there?

It might seem cliché, but what brought me back was the love for my country. The longing I felt when leaving at 16 never went away. And while I respect my Mexican-American brothers and sisters, many lose touch with the tierra madre and assimilate, sometimes denying their heritage. So coming back to Mexico was an homage to my heritage and love for my home and culture.

We spoke about Mérida in the intro to this interview, but there’s more to be said about why you chose the White City to call home and establish a business.

You know that I just saw images of Mérida while scrolling through my phone, but I was mesmerized by what I saw. I became more intrigued with every second of the research I did. I found a very traditional Mexico in those pictures, a Mexico with which I identified. The architecture and the Mayan culture made me proud, and I loved seeing women dressed in their huipiles and ternos. I was smitten!

Customers relax at Doz Diez, a new mezcalería in Merida. Photo: Mary Arda / Yucatán Magazine

Tell about how you decided that this would be the place for the mezcalería of your dreams.

I was with my mother when we saw the colonial house that became Dos Diez. It was 2019, and we fell in love with the house’s architecture. It was almost in ruins, but it held a magic that drew me in. Of course, we didn’t know then that it would become Dos Diez. We just knew we wanted the property. Then COVID hit.

Were you working at the time, and what happened then?

I had just accepted a job offer that I quickly lost, as many others did. Projects would show up and quickly disappear. Or very temporary offers came up that would take me away from Mérida, which I didn’t want. So we rolled up our sleeves and started working on renovating the property. It was rough. Going at it alone as a woman in our culture can sometimes be challenging. But I dedicated every day to every detail until it felt right. It took blood, sweat, tears, and lots of money.

When did you decide this would be Dos Diez?

It was my mother’s idea. She said, hija, you’ve been talking about a mezcalería for years. Now is the time, and this is the place. So, with her push, I brought the business plan to life. At first, I thought it was too large a space, but I realized there was lots of growth and business potential. And here we are, despite COVID and other challenges, open, growing, and fulfilling a dream at home in Mexico.

Doz Diez, Calle 54 476-A between 55 and 57, on the edge of the Mejorada neighborhood of Mérida, will host a mezcal-tasting fundraiser for the Merida English Library at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. They will be closed Dec. 25 – 27, and Dec. 31 – Jan. 1. Visit facebook.com/dosdiezmezcaleria

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