Goodbye Tree – the last one on our block

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.

Abandoned property

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.  

Tree pushing against masonry facade

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.

Corner of Moorish building on left


Moorish building - from Mexico International website

This is a wonderful old wall down the block, also an abandoned property. You can see the history in it – layer by layer.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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15 Responses to Goodbye Tree – the last one on our block

  1. Ron says:

    We took photos of that Moorish building last November. Way cool!

  2. Those damn trees! Always hanging over everything, dumping their ‘garbage’ and providing nasty shade that prohibits us from getting our dose of sunstroke and heat exhaustion. We want the city to be as hot as possible so let’s get rid of the darn things! Chop chop!!

  3. Grant says:

    I dunno. I’m down on trees (in El Centro, anyway) since the one next door to me fell over and took out my garden wall a couple of hurricanes ago. Somehow I ended up paying for it to be removed and everything rebuilt. Guess I’m lucky it didn’t hit the house.

    I thought that moorish building was a mosque. I seem to recall seeing a sign on it to that effect a few years ago.

    • BG says:

      It may have been a mosque long ago, but not in the 25 years I’ve been here. It has been the property (maybe originally the residence) of the Chapur family.

      • Grant says:

        My mind is playing tricks again. Lovely building. Wish I had a spare $1.5 m.

        • BG says:

          Me too. Although, as an owner of a colonial house, I would swear never to do that again (buy an old house), that one is an exception. It is unique and beautifully designed.

  4. After living in Mexico for almost 5 years and being married to a Mexican for 10 I can tell you this culture is still such a mystery to me. I took a course called The Mexican Mystique to try to understand it better, but I can’t say I do. I love this country and love living here, but there are things I just can’t grasp. An example that comes to mind is the burning of plastic. There is a trash truck that comes by to pick up the trash, but many people have the nasty habit of burning their trash instead. My son’s school has a few educational “Protect The Environment” type campaigns here in our town . One has to be very cautious in one’s approach to “educating”, so as not to offend.

  5. gerardo martínez says:

    Why, someone explain me why?, someone tell me intentions behind this criminal act…pleaseWe need more trees its the only way to be an Historiacl Center fresh

    • BG says:

      I think there were other ways to solve the problem, and it is too bad the City chose not to take one of them. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful tree, but it was tall and provided shade. Now our block is all cement.

  6. Kinbote says:

    “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.”

    Yet Dr. Stephen Fry’s Merida real estate predictions say we’re in for a big real estate boom ANY MINUTE NOW!!!!

    Have you noticed that virtually half of all properties in Centro are currently for sale? Have you noticed the insane prices people are asking for them, in many cases because the owners spent way too much money renovating them? Have you noticed how long many of them have been on the market? Have you noticed the current state of the tourism industry in Mexico? Have you noticed what the U.S. public at large thinks things are like down here? Not to mention things like hurricanes or cholera outbreaks that could easily ensure that not another house is sold in this town again for the next decade?

    Have you noticed that many of the organizations responsible for bringing retirees down here in the first place are now moving them to other countries?

    Here are my predictions for Merida’s real estate market:

    This thing is going to end with a whimper, and not with a bang. I suspect the whimper began at least a year ago, and will probably draw itself out over the next ten years as houses sit on the market and crumble because the owners who were duped into spending $300,000 renovating them don’t want to take a loss.

    I predict the nasty reputation Merida’s expat community has, which any prospective retiree thinking of moving down here will most undoubtedly stumble across during their first Google search, will ensure that Gringos won’t want to touch this town with a ten foot pole.

    Eventually, I predict the gorgeously-renovated Colonial mansions in Centro will become sweet squatting places for Yucatecan teenagers and transients to get drunk in and vandalize.

    But perhaps I’m just being pessimistic.

    Also, Re: “We gringos are the only ones who find these crumbling antiques charming.”

    No, Mexicans find them charming too, but they understand that there’s a lot of upkeep involved in keeping them from crumbling, that Centro has been turned into a ghost town/real estate parade of homes where no on lives and there is nothing to do, and they understand that an enormous brand new house up north inside a gated community with a pool will cost them considerably less than these crumbling antiques.

  7. fishinisfun says:

    Kinbote,
    You and this site’s owner Gorbman seem to have misread the Yucatan Living article on projections for the Merida & Gulf beach real estate values.
    See: http://www.yucatanliving.com/real-estate-yucatan/merida-real-estate-predictions.htm

    In between the confusing references to Thales, Dr. Fry talks about the real estate market improving in 2013 & 2014, as 25 million of the first baby boomer Americans become eligible for retirement. Is 2013 & 2014 really ” ANY MINUTE NOW!!!! ” .
    One of us seems to have misplaced 2 years.
    Your continued attempts to trash Merida and Meridanos are hilarious!
    Mike

    • BG says:

      What makes you think I misread it? Isn’t it possible that other people may have other opinions? And having a realistic look at house sales here in Merida is not trashing. I love Merida. In fact I’m so fond of it, that I resent the way it has been artificially priced out of the market.

  8. fishinisfun says:

    GM BGB,
    You offer: “Isn’t it possible that other people may have other opinions.”

    Dates and years are somehow now opinions. Either you misread Dr. Fry’s article, or you intentionally promote and publish errors, deception, and distortion. Do you really think Kinbote’s claim that Dr. Fry’s projected 25 million per year newly eligible US baby boomers, starting in 2 years (2013) has somehow magically transformed into your friend Kinbote’s ” ANY MINUTE NOW!!!! ”

    If you really think a 2-3 year distortion is a matter of opinion, then, what qualifies as fact or reality? If 2-5 years out in the future are suddenly ” ANY MINUTE NOW!!!! “, you can loan me $100,000 this week, and I promise to pay it back …
    ” ANY MINUTE NOW!!!! ”

    You and Kinbote certainly are clever.
    Cheers!

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