Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Casa Montejo

This is the oldest building in Merida, built in 1549 (ahh...I remember it like yesterday)by Francisco Montejo, the conquistador of the Yucatan peninsula, who arrived in 1542, after a couple of failed attempts by his father to conquer the local Mayan Indians. It faces the main town square/park.

In the construction of this mansion, they used stones from Mayan temples they dismantled on the site. And, "to the winner take all," they incorporated a little attitude in the carvings surrounding the front entrance, which is flanked by two tall, elegant Spaniards dressed in armor(Montejo the Elder and Montejo the Younger), with their feet resting on the heads of two Indians. You can see from the open mouths of the Indians, they don't look particularly happy with this arrangement.

Currently, the structure is being renovated by Banamex (a large Mexican bank). They've built a modern banking facility in the center open courtyard. And they use some of the historic rooms for meeting rooms and offices. They will open parts of the restored building to the public when completed. Interestingly, you can still see the original stones "recycled" from the Mayan temple in the walls and walkways of the Casa Montejo. The are fossilized shells embedded in the stone.

Thing is, the Montejo family lived in this palace from 1549 until 1970. 400 years in the same house? Wouldn't you get tired of the wallpaper or something? Maybe want to move the kids to a better neighborhood? The max I've ever spent in one place is five years. Clearly, I'm not cut out to be a conquistador.