I love stories. And I particularly love personal, passionate stories. On a recent visit to Casa de los Venados in Valladolid I found out that there is a direct link between Hacienda Xcanatun in Merida and Casa de los Venados in Valladolid.
Before we even get to the connection, let me explain these two buildings and businesses. Hacienda Xcanatun is one of my favorite boutique hotels and restaurants in Merida. I have been taking long weekends in the Hacienda for as long as I can remember and just had dinner at their restaurant a few weeks ago. Dinner was so great, and the property is as magical as ever.
Casa de los Venados is a large home just off the town square in Valladolid that houses the largest private collection of Mexican folk art in the country. This project began in October 2000 and though open to the public, the owners say their project is far from finished. The 18,000 square foot home that doubles as a museum is one of the greatest museums in Valladolid, one that I love to visit often.
How does a restaurant and boutique hotel have a direct connect to a Folk Art Museum in Valladolid? The story of Casa de los Venados reveals the connection.
Back in 2000 Jon and Dorianne Venator had finally realized their dream, to own a hacienda style home in Mexico. Their dream first led them to Merida and finally Valladolid where serendipitously they found an old home for sale just off the main town square. Following some tough negotiations with the 80+ year old owner for a home that had not been occupied since 1964, Jon and Dorianne purchased their dream home which at the time looked like a dream Mayan ruin.
Jon immediately called Hacienda Xcanatun to find out who did their renovation. William Ramirez restored Xcanatun from a cattle ranch and sisal hacienda to a boutique hotel, winning awards along the way. He accepted Jon’s request to restore this 400+ year old home in Valladolid.
The connection between these two exquisite properties is William Ramirez, a local architect known for his incredible renovations of old colonial buildings in the Yucatan. Imagine renovating large bedrooms in access of 1200 square feet. This is what William Ramirez worked with and created alongside Jon and Dorianne.
But the renovation is just part of the story. What Jon and Dorianne envisioned was a public museum to house their private collection of Mexican folk art that has been accumulated and curated during their travels since 2001 and is still being collected. Their home has over 3000 pieces of art created by some of the greatest folk art artists in Mexico. They continue to add to their collection so this number could be even higher today, but Jon and Dorianne hand picked each piece as they traveled through Mexico.
Folk Art has a very strong presence throughout Mexico with many artists living in the western and central states of the country. Preserving, collecting and educating visitors about this part of Mexican culture is invaluable. Having a museum close by in the Riviera Maya will inspire more travel throughout the country as people learn more about this art form, its significance and its history.
Mexico is a huge country and its artists are spread throughout in easy to get to capital cities but also remote villages that are harder to get reach. Jon and Dorianne have traveled to the remote areas and brought back some of the best pieces from some of the best artists in the country. They are sharing their travels and experiences through their home and stories.
Note that this is a not-for-profit endeavor with all entrance fees going to the trust that will keep this museum open to the public forever. The suggested donation for a tour is 60 pesos per person and that does include a guide. If you wish to tip your guide after your great tour, please provide your gratuity to the guide directly.
Casa de los Venados is to the east of the main cathedral on Calle 40. Tours run every day at 10 am but if you have a large group or know that you cannot make the 10 am tour schedule, email in advance and request a separate tour.
When you are done, check out Atrio Restaurant, a local favorite with Yucatecan food and handmade tortillas!
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