The Haunting of Villa María

There are many gloriously faded mansions and palacios all over Mérida, particularly in Centro Histórico. Some are clearly occupied and restored to their former grandeur, now either banks, corporate headquarters or boutique hotels, whilst others are seemingly abandoned and left to decompose in the tropical sun. I wonder why? No doubt the restoration costs would be huge, plus the ongoing maintenance, so perhaps they’ve just been locked up until opportunity knocks and someone with deeper pockets takes on the responsibility.

Just along the Avenida Colón are many abandoned mansions that sit forlorn, plant-life encroaching,  in such a state of disrepair that they’re surely in danger of collapse, with one standout gem, the spooky but elegant Villa María, purported to be one of the most haunted houses in Mérida. People report seeing an elderly female figure in a white, billowing dress with long sleeves. She appears with a face as smooth as silk with a distant expression, standing amidst gently wafting curtains and the flickering of candle flames – though the house is bordered up and the window shutters bolted shut. It’s a pretty spooky place, even in the dazzling sunshine. 

According to a local report, when renovations began across the street in a newly built hotel, several workmen reported hearing wailing coming from the house and seeing a female figure dressed in her finery at one of the windows (tequila on the job, not a good look guys) . A Maya shaman was brought in to purify the house and give the ghost permission to leave. Perhaps she did, or perhaps she didn’t… either way this splendid mansion remains locked up until some brave new owners take possession, if you pardon the pun. 

On a walk to the northern boundary of the Centro Histórico, to Colonia Itzimná, there are many mansions that appear to be in somewhat better shape than in other parts of town. There’s one particularly vast estate called Casa Faller which takes in several city blocks and is gloriously restored, with manicured gardens and tall swaying palms. I’d love to explore, but the large imposing wrought iron gates tell you that this is a very private place. 

It’s not hard to envisage the former splendour and refined comforts of these buildings during the giddy heights of the henequen heyday, so it’s wonderful to see some of them finally being restored – and if they are to become future boutique hotels, then maybe we’ll all get to experience their grand history and elegant bones. 

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