by Beryl Gorbman, Yucatan Yenta
Two doors away from us on our block in Merida, there is an old crumbling building front with two doors in it. It is usually padlocked but periodically someone knocks off the chains, so passers-by use it as a dump and a bathroom. Last year there was an official sign on it for a while that said the City was trying to ascertain the ownership. It appears to be abandoned.
The property in back of the façade is a good-sized empty lot with a piece of a wall in the middle. Weeds, garbage, and a stench, that’s all it is.
There’s a nice, big tree toward the front of the property and it is (was) impinging on the masonry wall, causing it to crumble into the street. Workers came by daily to clean the fallen plaster off of the sidewalk and there was a danger of the whole wall coming down if the poor tree followed its destiny.
Yesterday the City Public Works Dept. cordoned off that part of the block and there were about 12 important looking men with white shirts and city cars, taking notes and mulling over the situation.
Today there are three workers who are destroying the tree, branch by branch, and also making big holes in the masonry. (I don’t understand why both of the these things are necessary.) The whole block is cordoned off now as the laborers work their butts off. There are about five other guys in white shirts watching them. And writing things down. And of course, several police cars.
I asked the city officials who were out there whether the property was being “transferred.” They said no. But no empty land goes undeveloped, particularly in our neighborhood of Santa Ana. Such lots are snapped up by realtors and developers who build unaffordable upscale fake colonial homes on them as fast as they can. Right now there are two or three such houses already on the block and they are unoccupied except for an occasional rental. The block is very quiet.
Above, you can see one of the new colonial restorations – the mauve building next to the destroyed tree. It was renovated about a year and a half ago, but remains unsold.
Last year there were lots of For Sale signs in our neighborhood but they were so unsightly and such a public display of economic failure, that the City taxed the owners for putting them up. Now they are gone, so the houses just stand there silent and empty, the walls cracking.
The City is overbuilt with expensive houses, unaffordable to the average Yucatecan. And if a Yucatecan could afford one of these places, he wouldn’t buy here in the colonial center – he’d buy in an outlying area with breezes, modern construction, and pools. We gringos are the only ones who find these crumbling antiques charming.
All the labor involved in taking down the tree and the masonry is being done literally by hand. Machetes, knives and strong backs. There are no mechanized or motorized tools.
I’m so sad to see the tree go. It was about 40 feet high and provided shade on an otherwise barren block.
Another real estate note on the block: Across the street from us there is an enormous Moorish-style building complete with roof cupola (stained glass inside before they blocked it off). For many years, the stunning building has been occupied by a company that runs hotels on the Caribbean. It’s a historic landmark. With economic times as they are, the company that owns the building has put it up for sale for $1.5 million, I understand. The company has moved out of most of he space, but they continue to maintain it.
This is a wonderful old wall down the block, also an abandoned property. You can see the history in it – layer by layer.