• In September 2018, work at the Pasaje Picheta was promised to be done the following month. Photo: Sipse

Mérida, Yucatán — The Pasaje Picheta will shed its homey murals in a renovation that goes beyond a cosmetic makeover.

The overhaul has taken months longer than expected, but when it’s done, the shopping arcade will be at the crossroads of culture and gastronomy, the state tourist board promises.

The mall is fairly obscure considering its prominent location, adjacent to the government palace and across from the Plaza Grande. But its entrance is easily overlooked by pedestrians walking along the colonnade on Calle 61 near 60.

Visitors will first encounter a modern lobby with an information desk. On the first level, the two central courtyards are being converted into a cultural corridor with natural lighting and ventilation, where art exhibitions will be mounted.

On the left, a commercial area allows merchants to offer their products and crafts; on the right, there are two galleries or temporary exhibition rooms and, at the request of the artistic community, there will be an area for the sale of their works. In the rear, there are spaces for services and access to the second floor.

Upstairs, digital projectors will display photographs, objects, paintings, maps and writings relevant to the region and celebrating all things Yucatán.

On the terrace, passersby will appreciate an unparalleled view of the Plaza Grande and nearby places.

The tourism board’s general director, Dafne López Martínez, said that the Picheta will become a benchmark to publicize what the state has to offer to all of Mexico and the world.

Reconstruction began in December 2017 and officials promise it will conclude in mid-October.

Such ambitious plans are fitting for a building that is among the most historic in a city already filled with history.

Since 1639 the building has been a prison, town hall and later, a cinema. It became a shopping center in 1993 after years of abandonment.

As a shopping arcade, it was named for the cartoonist Gabriel Vicente Gahona, known in Mérida under his pen name, Picheta. He is remembered for his keen sense of political and social criticism.

After he died in 1899, his works were largely forgotten until 1938, when his descendants donated some of them to what is the now Museo Regional de Antropología de Yucatán at the Palacio Cantón.

Some of Picheta’s works and his lithographic press are on display at the Pinacoteca del Estado de Yucatán Juan Gamboa Guzmán museum, Calle 59 x 58 y 60, and a permanent collection of 15 of his works on view at the Museo de la Ciudad (Calle 56 x 65 y 65A).