Casa Mexilio's recent history
. . . since 1980
Into an empty building, Richard, Jorge and I walked to find the empty structure painted the same color, inside and out - a color Yucatecans called Izamal gold. It was like someone had found a sale on 'battleship grey'. And there were still ashes below the three small hibachi-type braziers under the typical campana chimney in the old kitchen. There were only three pieces of furniture or appliances within the building and they were: a pull-chain toilet, a bidet, and lavabo - circa 1900. The house had been vacant for almost ten years, and we were still living in a time when the adaptive re-use of old, city-center buildings was not the attractive option it is today.
On the second floor a whole room had been dedicated to a steam room, complete with little windows and all was covered in shiny white and green tile. The remains of the steam machine was there and the intricate plumbing necessary for such a modern bath. In the 70s we all needed a jacuzzi and in the 1920s wealthy people had to have their own steam room. There still exists in Merida a hotel from the 20s with private steam baths, plus the popular general steam room for the working classes.
Casa Mexilio became the very first Bed & Breakfast style lodging in Merida. There were a few guesthouses, but not the B&B concept. Twenty years into the project, we left the B&B idea, to become 'a small hotel', which we remain today.
Casa Mexilio became the very first Bed & Breakfast in Merida, and it has endured with the same philosophy and brand for thirty-six years - and under the management of the same two owners. After the death of Roger’s mother in Merida, in 2014, we took two years off to study and reassess.
We were three friends who began this venture. Richard died early on, and continuing with a project scattered in two states (the coconut beachside campground and the city-centre mansion in Merida, separated by a 5 hour journey), was difficult. With only one driver.
An astonishing adventure it became, especially after the major hurricane in 1988, which wiped a lot of our construction, landscaping, and tourist infrastructure away. There was no internet and no cel phone. I climbed a coconut tree to search for a cel signal from Cozumel Island more than 30 kilometres away. We bought and played with illegal, single side band radios to keep in touch with the world. And the "communications authorities" stood on corners near our house, trying to discover which foreign government we worked for ! We were fined - we paid it - and kept on illegally broadcasting.
After Hurricane Gilbert, when everyone was searching for a way to survive in the tourist industry, we made a fortuitous alliance with Arnold Bilgore, and The Turquoise Reef Group, La Posada de Capitan Lafitte and Shangri La Caribe. Roger became the leader of an adventure travel business, trendsetters, called Los Vagabundos, covering southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.
Jorge stayed in Merida and cared for travellers within Casa Mexilio, while Roger travelled with small groups, along the Caribbean Coast, and the natural and archeological sites within driving distance, or within boating distance down and up languid and dangerous tropical rivers connecting Chiapas, Tabasco, and Guatemala.
Jorge and Roger have been detained or held up by a volcanic eruption in Chiapas, guerrillas in Guatemala, and sent to the hospital by African Killer Bees. And they also fought off the pestilence of Mindus Crudas and the lethal yellowing disease which killed off almost all their coconut trees. Roger was attacked by a drug addled machete assassin (in Florida), loosing a year of his life to brain surgeries and convalescence. He got caught in the crossfire of the 1994 Zapatista Uprising in Chiapas, on New Year's Day, with a bus load of twenty-three women on what they billed their "Magical, Mystical Rainbow Tour". These women were diciples of two carasmatic women spiritualists. When the war broke out and we had to abandon our hotel at night, the tour's participants broke into two groups -- those who began crying for the husbands they had left at home, and the true spiritualists, who drew a cornmeal pathway around our bus before moving it. Oshano was of Apache extraction and Nikki was associated with the Rock Band, The Grateful Dead !
Late in this tropical odyssey, and before the Yucatan rail system was ripped out and sold for scrap, Casa Mexilio operated a tour company called Great Railroad Journeys of Yucatan. After all, Jorge's paternal grandfather, his own father, and his brother, had lived some years like Gypsies, on the rails working for the railroad.
In Merida and from the beginning, an amazing friendship began with our neighbors across the street, the three ageing Gonzalez brothers, who had colonised the caribbean coast and had the only guest room available between Punta Juarez and the frontier with Belize, during the decades of the 40s, 50s, 60s. And it was from their junk room that some of the original furniture of our home, Casa Mexilio, was repatriated. You see, the Gonzalez brothers had been for many years in business with the former owner of our house, in chicle (for chewing gum). The jungle provided the tree, the zapote tree, and the product was shipped to Mr. Wrigley, from Progreso to New York City.
Capitalising on the two assets, our Caribbean beach lands and the Big House in Merida, we made it through the difficult years after the hurricane by selling ‘adventure’, a goulash of ruins, beaches, diving, Yucatecan culture, and the genteel ways of the city folks in the Big House. For the tourists, it was a very real slice of history and real adventures, both past and present, of the people of Yucatan.
History surrounded us, as they say. And Jorge brought the magic ingredient of authenticity, his Mayan language, culture, and family ties to one of the most important haciendas of the state, plus his early years of having lived in the sparsely populated jungle Territory of Quintana Roo.
It was not until ten years into this bi-national adventure that the history of our home was realized and documented — that Jorge was born on the hacienda owned by the same family who built and lived in our Merida home. Ancient neighbors, yellowed clippings, research, and a few fortuitous meetings filled in the blanks.
For the rest of the story, see: ‘The Connection between Hacienda Xcanchakan and Casa Mexilio" It can be found under the About Tab.