Paloma Gutierrez Zoreda - "I make my own decisions"
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you do for living?
My name is Paloma Gutierrez Zoreda and I own the boutique hotel Casa de Las Palomas, in the historical centre of Merida, Mexico. Before that, I lived in France for five years and another five in Italy. I’ve worked in design and I’ve always been passionate about tourism, so when I came back to Mexico because my dad was sick with cancer, I wanted to start something where I could combine the two.
That’s how I started the boutique hotels. This one, Casa de Las Palomas, is a house from the beginning of 1900 that we recovered. At the moment, it has 9 rooms. I want people to come here and feel at home, to have that homey feeling, so people feel comfortable. The other two, Casa de las Tres Marias and Art 57, are also boutique hotels in the historical centre.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived here?
I always tell people to visit the historical centre. It’s very nice to walk around and completely different by day and by night, especially the lights and sounds. There are many little museums, craft markets and restaurants.
I think the colours in Mexico are wonderful and here in Merida it’s nice to see them in our typical clothes. In any craft market you see the colourful clothes with wonderful embroidery. They’re beautiful and very nice to wear in the summer, you can’t imagine how hot it gets!
Also, foreigners should meet at least one “yucateco”, we are the nicest people in the world. We always have a smile on our faces. And it’s true what they say, if you’re not feeling so good, a smile from someone on the street will make your day.
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
The food from Yucatan is very good. The “papadzules” are delicious, it means “king’s food” in Mayan. Usually, dishes are made with pork’s meat and always come with corn tortillas, but for me personally, the best is always seafood.
4. What's your favourite place here?
We have a lot more than Chichen Itza. The are a lot of beautiful places.
We have thousands of cenotes and they are all special in some way. There is a small region here, Homun, with over 300 cenotes where every year people find a new one. There is a theory that says that all of them are connected underground, but no one really knows. This is one of my favourite places.
There is another nice village called Maxcanú, it has many caves that are really cool to visit. You have to go with a guide because inside it’s a huge labyrinth and you can get lost. Going in there is quite an adventure!
And then there’s Uxmal. It’s 1 hour away from Merida and its ruins are the most stunning for me. Inside there are very few people and no market stalls with overpriced handcrafts. Close by there is the Progresso beach, which is very good for food, especially one restaurant called Chicxulub Food Bank.
I love every “pueblo magico” in this region, all of them have something special, like Valladolid or Izamal.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
Travelling is always the best plan. Although you should do it more than just on a Sunday! I’ve always thought that traveling, meeting new people and cultures gives you a wider vision of the world.
I also love design and decoration. Besides the hotels I also have a design atelier. There are five of us now, we do a lot of projects, including people’s houses and other hotels. And it’s going very well, clients keep coming from word of mouth and I’ve had to say no to people because there is not enough time.
6. What makes you happy?
The fact that I love what I do and that I am free to do whatever I’d like to. I make my own decisions.
7. Why did you get into tourism?
Merida didn’t have much tourism. The city has a lot of culture and history, but the historical part of town needed to be recovered. I wanted to help bringing our city centre back to life, going back to our roots and making it pretty and lively again .
Merida does not have as much tourism as Cancun or Tulum because it doesn’t have such nice beaches. But it is very rich in culture, art and events. This is why tourism here is growing considerably and our average number of guests per night is higher, people are interested in Mexico’s history and enjoy our culture. It’s not only about Chichen Itza anymore.
We have tourists coming from everywhere, depending on the season. During our winter, from November to January, we receive mostly people from Europe, the US and Canada trying to escape the cold, whereas in the rest of the year we receive a lot of Mexicans.
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
What’s the thing you miss the most when you’re away from home?
Tips & Recommendations
Visit Merida's city centre. The historical part is very nice and colorful, the typical colonial style
Find out if there is any cultural program, everyday in Merida there's a free show of traditional music, theatre or the recreation of the typical Mayan sport Pok ta Pok
Drive to Izamal. It's a small "pueblo magico" where every house is yellow.
Visit the Mayan ruins around. There are many, the most famous being Uxmal and, of course, Chichén Itza