EMILIANO & JAEHEE
emiliano@lacasapark.com  917 406 2854
jaehee@lacasapark.com  917 373 1548
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ExVotoSo , Emiliano has been talking about EX -Voto arts during our trip and we were hoping to come across a couple really interesting ones from early of the century.  What is EX Voto?  Regardless it’s various forms, EX Voto is votive offering to Saint or Divinity.  EX Voto is placed in churches or chapels where the worshippers seek grace or wishes to give thanks. Thanks to  small to big everyday events in your lives. Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the received help. As such they may include texts explaining a miracle attributed to the helper, or symbols such as a painted or modelled reproduction of a miraculously healed body part.   I believe Egypt is one place where you can still find quite a bit of many very old Ex-voto arts or even France, Italy and of course Mexico!   We have visited a few antique shops and flea markets looking for a few good examples of EX-voto arts.  There were many re productions honestly but  saw a few interesting original ones. Especially if you go on line, there are many art dealers these days selling the ones from the early 1900′s to quite recent ones.

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002As you can see, read ( if you know the Spanish!)  or at least imagine, People will draw, paint and write about what had happened and what they are thankful about. They are all done in such naive and humble manners and styles of drawing and painting that often it makes me think that they were done by children not by adult. But then it may be true that some of them were done by actually children.  The subjects are vary from a woman somehow survived from violence,  a family survived from a car accident, a man may have seen a alien, a couple thanking for their engagement. Thankful events have no boundaries.  They are quite cute and adorable regardless how serious the subject is. I love them! All the writing underneath the art usually describes what had happened and what they are thanking for.

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retabloHere’s church covered in EX-voto art.

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We don’t know why we are so drawn into Mexico but we are drawn into Mexico and Mexico has been really the one country ( beside our  home Italy) we keep exploring through repeated visits and researches.  I guess it has something to do with unique culture that we are attracted to rather just beautiful beaches and cool drinks to go with… Anyway, our Christmas and New year’s trip has begun on 21st of December with landing on Cancun to get to our beloved home at our heart, Tulum!  Relaxing two days first there…  Hanging on the beach, visiting local friends to say hi, nice lunch at El Tabano and other usual little things we love to do and always couple new adventures we stumble into at Tulum. Low key and just magical… but then our journey really kicked off by taking off to Merida to explore the city and it’s color and culture and a few amazing historical haciendas to spend our Christmas. Then we did little hops of chenotes and other spots on a way back to Tulum on the road to Coba. Cenote Il-Kil near Chichen Itza to Valladolid to Tulum to Akumal to Tulum again discovering new favorite spots and unbelievable mother nature and maybe couple paradises so called if it is really ever exists… It feels like we have done tons of things yet we know we have so much more we can explore here in Yucatan along the Mexican Gulf or other towns as Celestun, Uxumal, Progreso and many more.  Many towns and villages have similarities yet also each has it’s own character and architectural setting along it’s own history. So each visit is always somewhat unique. So far all the people we met have been so kind and friendly to us. We feel welcomed here. Now we have tasted the top of the iceberg of Mexican culture through the last few years, now I feel we definitely had opened up a can of worm to finish it all up . The rest of the iceberg. Traveling allows us to dream, explore, taste, open up our brain, heart and soul. It makes us un-judge or teach not to judge yet also it makes us to get savvier and savvier to navigate and get to new right exciting things in much creative way. We are passionate about it. It’s inspiring and fun to discover and learn. And it definitely helps us to wear our own distinctive color and style.

We had come across many great moments during our trip and here I like to share the essence of Yucateca culture of all!

Christmas eve at Square, Parque de Santa Lucia, Merida: Dancers getting ready to perform traditional Yucatan dance. Elaborate hair pieces, make up and dressing is all quite beautiful. It’s a small and intimate lovely park. And It totally got me all excite! This was the exact kind of situation I wanted to stumble into! The tradition.

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IMG_0172No they are not your typical Mariachi.  The traditional songs they sang were quite classy and  sort of ” Classic” like.

IMG_0051_2Christmas Mesa at Cathedral, Merida : I didn’t understand 80% of the mesa, but it didn’t matter to me. We are not even all that religious but it was beautiful  to be in the Cathedral of Merida with all the locals to spend the night of Christmas. The quire was humble yet gorgeously beautiful. It nurtured our souls. We prayed for everyone we know and we love. Yes including you. Our life and lives of our family, friends, my people at work, Emiliano’s clients. Everyone. It was fulfilling.

IMG_0063Plaza Grande: stroll after the Mesa on Christmas night. The main square where the Cathedral is. All the buildings were dolled with Christmas lights. Below lovely streets by night in Merida.

IMG_0141Beloved book shop by locals and visitors: Amate Books. A great book shop!  Merida.

IMG_0285An amazing Antique shop!  I’ll say this shop is quite compatible to the “Olde good thing” in NY. Amazing antique pieces and especially the religious statues and objects are excellent.  Circa 1913 statue below. Naive and humble expression is what I learnt about most of folk art and religious figures of Yucatan or it could be through out the Mexico. I also like to blog about Ex Voto: the religious folk art, panel painting with a short story to go with mostly thanking for small everyday life event as we came across through books and visiting antique shops during this trip. They are quite fascinating.

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IMG_0289_2Ahhh, what a beautiful face she has! So wanted to wrap her up to bring with us back home then this shop only accepts cash only. We were middle of nowhere to get close to any bank machine. A good excuse to search more sort of things. And honestly, we felt we needed to learn more about these religious figures before we make any silly purchase.

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IMG_0270Selvaged old tiles from colonial homes and haciendas. Quite pretty they are…  Below, me standing on the elaborate flooring of the colonial home where we stayed at.

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IMG_0197Typical street signs. Street is called “Calle” and the most of street does go by the numbers such as : My home is on Calle 66 between Calle 45 and 47.

IMG_0043_2Gael in front of our colonial home base on Calle 66. Merida. It gets chilly by night and hot during the day.

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IMG_0328The main market in Merida. It was quite intense experience for us to go through this market. First of all, it’s monstrously big. And it was the Christmas eve or what..! The market was absolutely packed. And the way everything is laid out, presented, accepted and lived by the people in Merida. It’s cruelly raw and in your face. We were bit shocked. But then we talked to ourselves…  You know what?  That’s how human live.

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IMG_0333Can you just smell what we are smelling here? Live turkeys walk around next to the taco station. It’s crazy and amazing. Moving on to Fish market. Honestly we have skipped the meat area. We have seen them all at Valladolid market. It gets quite intense. Chunk of half of the cow and everything else hanging by the hooks and blood dripping and all… But we were happy to find the fish section here which Valladolid market didn’t have one.  Actually seafood were quite fresh.  We got half a dozen blue crab and some shrimps to make Christmas dinner before we attended the Mesa at the Cathedral.

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I didn’t write a separate blog about our experience at “Hacienda Ochil“;. But here I like to share a few photos of traditional Yucateca food we had at the hacienda.  It was hearty and delicious at very reasonable price.  Here the chopped fresh garnish for any Yucateca dishes: cilantro, white onion, red onion and radish. Below, Salsa tomate ( no it’s not spicy) and sauteed red onions ( really yummy and sweet)

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IMG_0360Lunch at Hacienda Ochil. A casual buffet style here yet the quality is 4 star restaurant with friendly service. And it’s traditional cuisine you want to experience in one of the most beautiful setting.

IMG_0364Hard boiled turkey egg with turkey meatball in a black sauce. ( actually the texture of the eat ball was bit grainy and powdery like. I did not care for it but I tried at least), pork, osso bucco, chicken, rice, sauteed onion all other usual. But really hearty and authentic. Not your double fried beans you know!

IMG_0375Fried tortilla dough with pork meat inside.

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IMG_0370The best tortilla that we ever had tasted. EVER!  Hand made with Yucateca love! Warm, fresh aroma of corn and just perfect subtle bite to it. Not papery or chewy at all. The perfection. I usually don’t care for any tortilla, so this experience made me pretty much stop eating any other kinds. Snub!

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IMG_0383OK, I got it all. Espresso, a shot of Tequila and Sangrita ( A perfect Tequila chaser. a shot of tomato juice and chili, It’s delicious. It tastes sort of like Bloody Mary but san alcohol). The Sangrita goes after the tequila. And the desert plate ranging Dried papaya with queso ( typical and traditional), Pan dulce ( kind of sugared french toast) and of course, flan. Take a better look at Sangrita!

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IMG_0319Main Entrance to Hacienda Ochil: about 1o mt car ride from Hacienda Yaxcopoil

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IMG_0329Not all Haciendas are this rustic. But we thought it was one good way to dream about how it would have been in it’s shining era. There are many beautiful haciendas available to rent out by the room or even the entire property renovated in fanciest way. They are drop dead gorgeous yet who knows how it had changed from the original condition and details.

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IMG_0467The Ceiba tree of Mayan: The largest tree of the Central America beloved by Bats and Harpie eagles. They are gorgeous!

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IMG_0574It’s so great to know where things come from. When we stopped by at the local bakery shop after the visit to Ochil and saw those bread, it all made sense. The Ceiba bread!! and below the turtle…

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IMG_0591Yes , they are Churros!!!. Hot, Crispy and Swweeeet!!  You can really taste the potato. The Churro man told me he uses red potato flower.

IMG_0608An awesome vintage photo we found at the small flea market at Parque de Santa Lucia on Sunday, Merida.  This must have been carneballe back in the days somewhere in Mexico. Fantastic costumes and make ups!

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I had bit of hard time ot pick out a few photos here out of millions of pictures from millions of moments at Yucatan.

The last picture above will be an anecdote of our new interest in "Ex Voto", especially in religious small paintings done by everyday people. They are fun, naive, shocking and amazing.

Hope you got to taste little bit of it.  If you have any question and need more info about specific thing, drop me an email, I can help you.

Go explore!!

IMG_0293Hacienda Yaxcopoil.

One of the main interest for us to explore Merida was to visit these rich and historic Haciendas in and near Merida. ( thanks to Emi’s creative research as always..!)  Hacienda and museum Yaxcopoil, the 17th century Plantation house is located 13kms from Merida and it’s magnificent despite how much it has run down by today.  It was a bit cloudy day, so actually it was perfect for us to do a bit of field trip by car and we planned to visit also one more hacienda Ochil which is located very close to Yaxcopoil. After an early breakfast of “pan tostatda and nutella (always our favorita!) at our lovely colonial home with beautiful tiled floor we rented during the stay at Merida, now we are hitting the road to Yaxcopoil!

IMG_0090The exterior  of much weathered and washed hacienda Yaxcopoil (it means the place of the green Alamo trees) over last 4 centuries…

Hacienda Yaxcopoil was once considered as one of the most important rural estate in the Yucatan due to its size and magnificence. It covered about 22,000 acres of land at the time of its greatest splendor, operating first as a cattle ranch then later as a henequen plantation ( Agave platation; mainly seperated fibers from agave plants to make ropes). It’s hard to believe the remained hacienda today is only less than 3% of it’s original size due to continuous political, social and economic changes. It’s very sad. I can’t even imagine how rich the hacienda would have been at it’s best period!

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IMG_0106Beautiful interior of Casa Principal, the main building contains large lounges and drawing rooms with original European furnitures from 19th century, spacious corridors with high ceilings (about 30 feet at least!!!) and extensive gardens with varieties vegetation in colors and species… The Casa Principal has 5 rooms that stretch out to both east and west in symmetry with most amazing colorful tile work that changes from room to room. Here check out all 5 different tile work.

IMG_0107The center room.: the reception room is presided over by two oil paintings showing Don Donaciano Garcia Rejon and his wife Dona Monica Galera, who acquired the hacienda in 1864.

IMG_0105The first room off the center one in west wing.

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IMG_0113The last room in the west wing.

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IMG_0112Old photos and paintings of residents at Yaxcopoil are still hung from room to room. Either that is power of Government or a rich and considering private investor, we really hope things will remain and preserved in safe ways.  The hacienda’s decaying is being stopped by special treatment using some sort of mixture with honey to allow the visitors to experience the authentic charm of the haciendas and feel the echos of old history yet also it breaks my heart to think that all of this could be gone in any time or further decay and get destroyed… The hacienda is up for sale to public at this moment.

IMG_0124 The transfer of tile work from the center room to the first room of the east wing.

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IMG_0126The second room  into the east wing. The beautiful tiled floor continues and changes. As the tiles feel more as marble like texture, matt yet colorful but not shiny and slippery as ones in new days. Contrast to today’s modernism in less and minimal approach to the beauty, these old hacienda’s intricate tiled floor works as warm and more is more kind of attitude. I absolutely love the patterns and colors. They are done in immaculate taste.

IMG_0116The terrace right outside of the east wing toward the back of the hacienda. The view from here to the open court yard  in between the casa principal and the hall, and the entire site of historic plantation field where Machine house is located is quite amazing.

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IMG_0197Not sure how popular this hacienda is during this time period, but honestly we only had handful of visitors the day we visited. Above is Senor, Mario who was born in the Yaxcopoil Hacienda and raised and worked for all his life at the hacienda. He was sent to school right in front of the hacienda and had one doctor for all his life also right in front of the hacienda. Senor Mario gave us priceless private tour of the entire remaining site . Senor Mario had countless stories and memories to tell us with such a pride and nostalgia.  I mean Yaxcopoil Is his life and himself. He’s 67 years old today.

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IMG_0170Maybe one of our favorite rooms at Yaxcopoil hacienda. The ‘ Hall’ that turned into a small museum of Yucatan potteries and  objects. The beautiful flooring again and rustic bowls and hefty stone grinders are quite fabulous here.

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IMG_0167Here the Maya Room displays numerous pieces of ancient potteries and other archaeological relics of the ” Classic Period” ( A.D.250-900) found in the Mayan ruins of Yaxcopoil.

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IMG_0147Once it was a cattle farm that bred 2000 cows, the Hacienda now has 2 horses outside of east wing of the casa principal. They are peaceful…

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IMG_0208We follow the trail of senor Mario on his special private tour for us. Walking through the garden of the Hacienda.  He points out impressive water system for the entire hacienda including US made water pump that still works for today .

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IMG_0229Collected water by the water pump from the well underneath will be collected here and get to distribute to entire hacienda through stone water way that is built all the way around the property. It’s a huge system if you think then the hacienda was covering 22 ,000 acres of land and fed 2000 cows and other thousands of workers.

IMG_0242The Machine House: Casa de Maquena…

Ahhh it has been so run down… missing a few walls and all.  But also it’s very beautiful. Senor Mario had specially opened up the engine room for us to see (actually I was impressed that this room was quite well maintained).  The henequen (agave) shredding machines that were used to render fibers from the henequen plant is actually sitting outside from the engine room.  The engine was used upto 1984, when the production of henequen fiber has ended… It was more than a century of operation.

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IMG_0263The 100 HP German Diesel motor.

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IMG_0296This old photo well represent how rich and prominent work that Yaxcopoil has done at it’s best time.

IMG_0301The Chapel of hacienda.

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Now..It’s the end of our 2 hour tour with Senor Mario… What a great man with a pride of the hacienda and the  life he had in and for.  It naturally came to our emotions, appreciation, broken hearts and uncertainty of the future of this hacienda, Yaxcopoil.  We all broke down to tears…

Senor Mario. Thank you so much again for your generous time and stories that you shared with us.

This one single visit to the Hacienda Yaxcopoil made this entire trip worth and more. Sipping mixed cocktails and munching on chips on the beach just can’t beat this kind of experience.  It’s nice  but it’s not enough. It enriched our little lives that much more with this one visit. Our better understanding of culture of Mexico. It completely satisfied our hunger to taste what a great authentic Hacienda meant.  Also we know where to take this learning and how to apply for our new future trips with Gael to experience the ” Real” things.

I am so tired of lousily embellished insignificant commercial uneducated pretentious Bourgeoisie of this modern days. It’s everywhere and it pollutes our mind. You know what I mean!!!!!

I believe a visit to a few prominent haciendas is important to understand the past rich history of  Yucatan. The hacienda represents 3 great periods in the Yucatan Peninsula: the pre-Columbian period, the Spanish Colonial period and the boom years of henequen cultivation during the late 19th and early 20th century. While many haciendas have been destroyed or allowed to fall into ruin or in a contrary, they have been completely renovated in great deal of commercial way to be used as high end hotels. But Hacienda Yaxcopoil has been preserved to stop the time.

If you are visiting Merida, this is one must check out. Step back into its history!

IMG_0245Typical Colonial residential and commercial homes of Merida, Mexico

It’s day 3 now since we have arrived in Merida, the 470 years old cultural Capital of Yucatan Peninsula ( 35Km from the Mexican gulf and 350Km from Tulum, Riviera Maya) to spend our Christmas, and we have taken million pics already and have so much to talk about. Colorful colonial homes despite once the city was nick named as ” the white city”, absolutely amazing grand scheme Haciendas in and out of Merida we had visited today and quite intense experience at super lively open markets, stumbling into traditional Yucateca singing and dancing in beautiful costumes  at the piazza, our proper attending a Mesa at the Cathedral on Christmas eve…  And, I thought of starting our stories with quick sketch of  beautiful, much broken yet carrying elaborate metal work and washed in both bright and faded colors Colonial homes where people of Merida live.  The weather has been perfect around 75 degree F,  not too hot or not too cold, so it has been really great for us to stroll poking our heads around this city of 1million people ranked at 12th of the most populous Mexican Metropolitan areas. I have not been in Havana in Cuba, but I would imagine both cities may share some sort of similar vibe as far as that run down beauty in this rustic yet vibrant colors. And also the old mobiles… ( The beetle is the far #1 car people ride here in Merida)

Here come and stroll with us to enjoy many facades of colonial homes of Merida!

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The city offers plenty of inspirations in colors and patterns everywhere, especially when you get inside of any colonial homes. There is also great deal of Mexican culture you can’t taste in areas as Cancun. It’s very busy yet also tranquil at the same time. People are nice in Merida. You will see a huge high and low of the rich and the poor.  The shocking rawness and the reality of people’s lives at the open markets vividly contrasts with any sort of technology here in the city. This city makes you think about everything we have and don’t have. It’s one interesting place where real people live.

It’s Merida!