Cultural ConnectorAuthor:Jessica Ritz
Designer and curator Monica Calderon dives deep into the rich cultural mix of Mérida, Mexico, for inspiration and an ambitious collaborative project
Fostering cross-cultural exchanges has always been an essential part of Monica Calderon’s practice as a designer and curator. Calderon, who lives in Santa Monica and returns frequently to her hometown of Mexico City with her husband, architect Ezequiel Farca, has been spending more time in the city of Mérida. In the rich cultural milieu of the Yucatan peninsula, Calderon’s next venture expands her network of heritage-focused artisans and cutting-edge designers. “I have the desire to create a platform in my native country where I can continue to open the dialogue and nurture connections between people in the creative community,” she says. “Mérida’s vibrancy is the perfect place to create a multidisciplinary sanctuary.”
Her latest, upcoming venture, Casa Escuela, occupies a restored schoolhouse building originally built in 1919 that’s located near Mérida’s zocalo, or central town square. Farca’s contemporary interventions sensitively respect and enhance the property’s historic architecture. To fully inhabit and revive the space, Calderon has been planning an ambitious programming agenda in collaboration with curator Sylvia Chivaratanond.
“Interactions with Mérida’s local community of designers and artisans is very enriching to my practice, as I believe in collaborative effort,” she notes. Her past work includes co-curating “Dialogo+Dialogue,” an exhibition at Blackman Cruz in Los Angeles, and CALA, a project that produced limited-edition experimental pieces by renowned designers and artists such as David Wiseman and Jorge Pardo. Calderon’s existing relationships with designers in Mérida, such as, Angela Damman, already provide a foundation to develop her latest mission.
Here, Calderon shares her own Mérida picks. It’s a destination that “has so much to offer. It’s the capital and heart of Yucatán where a new wave of cultural happenings are on the rise.”
“Apoala on Plaza Parque Santa Lucía is a little historic gem in town, a place that fuses Oaxacan and Yucatan ingredients and recipes. Nearby is La Chaya Maya, a beloved Mayan restaurant. The latest can’t-miss culinary spot with a contemporary yet traditional approach is Ramiro Cocina. Nectar by Chef Roberto Solís is the place to go for fine dining; he is the pioneer of new Yucatecan cuisine.”
“Admire Mérida’s historic colonial buildings on Paseo de Montejo, where you can explore Casa T’hō, a concept store that showcases a variety of products from established and upcoming Mexican designers. The gallery and cultural scene is booming downtown. I recommend visiting the joségarcía gallery; the Salon Gallos exhibition space inside a complex that includes a restaurant and bar; the formerly L.A.-based China Art Objects; and La Cúpula Cultural Center.“
“I cannot live without the handmade caftans by Huach designed by Marianito Rocha. I covet the Rocha Barro de Sac Chich store that’s a project of Fundación Javier Marín and in also in partnership with artisan communities in Sac Chich.”