Mérida, Yucatán — The Palomeque family compound is the grand dame of Fundacíon BAI’s Showcase of Homes this year.
While Mérida has changed radically over the years, this home has stayed in the same family for generations.
Fernando Emilio Palomeque PhD, who is affectionately referred to as “Dr. Sam,” has lived in “Casa de la 64” since he was born there 80 years ago. He’s seen his neighborhood change from completely residential to nearly all commercial — his is the last private residence in the primer cuadro of the city.
But his high walls affords him privacy and comfort, with incredible proximity to the Plaza Grande, and direct views of the Cathedral.
“I am happy to contribute to worthy causes when I can,” says Dr. Sam, a dermatologist who has “been goofing off now for several years.”
The Palomeque compound is an estimated 9,000 square feet, its great room dominated by a sweeping staircase and huge stained glass windows depicting Cervantes’ Don Quixote de La Mancha. All are original to the house, which was completed by Dr. Sam’s father in 1937.
The house was built past Mérida’s henequen heyday, but layered in the richness and extravagance of bygone years.
The architect of the house was Carlos Manuel Castillo Montes de Oca, who was a graduate of Cornell University, and later a UADY faculty member.
“Decoration of rooms were by my mother, Lia Peón, who by virtue of her European upbringing — in France — was a very accomplished antiquarian,” says Dr. Sam. “The house was filled with incredible porcelains, etcetera, which justly went to my fellow heir when we split the house. I kept the house, furniture and chandeliers.”
“Yes, many things were heirlooms from both families,” Dr. Sam recalls.
Throughout the house are fine furnishings, railings and other details made with wood harvested from Dr. Sam’s extensive land holdings.
When viewing the home, one of seven diverse properties on the self-guided tour, be sure to take note of the gate that separates the dining room from the grand salon.
“When my father asked the master craftsman about building such a gate of ziricote hard wood,” Dr. Sam says, “my father recalled the shock and reticence in the man’s face, who after a lot of cajoling and pleading, agreed to do so.”
But this hard wood is “confoundingly difficult” to work with, Dr. Sam explains.
“He worked with the condition that my father provide all the necessary tools initially and to replace them as often as necessary, which of course my dad readily agreed to.”
Dr. Sam says his father dented his wealth shipping steel tools from Germany, but on the tour, visitors can see the payoff.
“He bought the tools over the years to carve out the magnificent gate that stands today as pristine as the day it was finished, and as I imagine it will look centuries from now, wherever they will end up!”
Yucatán Expat Life is a proud Platinum Sponsor of Fundación BAI and affirms their mission to prevent teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and provide free HIV testing on the Peninsula. Watch for another Showcase profile next Monday as we visit a modern Centro home.
The 8th Showcase of Homes, a self-guided tour of seven outstanding Centro houses, is 1:30 – 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. Buy tickets and a printed map for a donation of 450 pesos/200 pesos for students at Hennessy’s, Cantina La Negrita, Bollicine’s, Robert Abuda Salon and Kate Miasik Salon, or call 999 292-8436. Tickets are limited in number.