78.8 F
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

What’s next for Mérida’s mysterious Casa Morisca?

Sign up for the Roundup!

Get news from Yucatán Magazine once a week in your inbox. It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

*Your email address is safe with us. We will never share your information with any third party, except to comply with applicable law or valid legal processes or to protect the personal safety of our users or the public.
Casa Morisca in 2023. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

Eating dinner at a restaurant across the street, we kept noticing how many passersby stopped to take a photo of the unusual and beautiful building at Calle 51 and 56.

Built in 1909, Casa Morisca (Moorish House) has always stood out. After years of abandonment, its intricate details have been slowly and steadily restored over the past few years.

Casa Morisca, Mérida, Yucatán, 1909. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While what’s going on now is still unknown to the public, its history is fairly well documented.

This residence was built by Genaro Pérez y Santos, a merchant originally from Pontevedra, Spain, to share with his Yucatecan wife María Alzina. He and his brother Federico, also a trader, along with José María Pino Domínguez, founded a carbonated water company.

The distinctive 24-room French-Moorish house was home to the United States Consulate in the 1920s and a maternity hospital in the 1930s.

While in use as offices, scenes from the 1977 movie “La Casta Divina” were filmed there, according to one neighbor. Around this time, it was owned by the famous Chapur family.

It sat quietly, seemingly abandoned for years until a local architectural firm was hired to turn it into a hotel. The firm is no longer associated with the project.

In 1991, Morisca was completely restored by the architect Eduardo Millet Cámara and sold again in 2017. That’s when the slow-moving renovations and an extension began. Work on the new part of the building, which appears to be a hotel with underground parking, has lagged. Its lines are modernistic, in contrast with the elaborate entrance.

The fine details of Casa Morisca’s domed foyer appear to have been painstakingly restored, as seen in this photo taken in June 2022. Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

In 2022, construction workers there told us that Casa Morisca would be offices, but we’ve also heard a restaurant would also be there, or maybe it will be a combination. That same year, I was able to walk through the open front doors and photograph the gorgeous foyer. Its chandelier was missing, but the decorative painting and stained-glass windows appeared to have been returned to their original glory.

In 2022, scaffolding was still installed at Casa Morisca. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

The Casa Morisca’s stained glass and extravagant arches reflect the Arabic influence that is seen in a few houses in the city of Mérida. It was built by immigrants with an obvious nostalgia for their Andalusian homeland, one local historian has noted.

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
- Advertisement -spot_img
Verified by ExactMetrics