Leïla Godet Voight is the owner and founder of La Cupula Cultural Center, a new hub for contemporary art exhibitions, concerts, dance performances, artist residencies and related activities located on Calle 54, downtown Mérida. This one of a kind art and culture venue opened its doors on Thursday Dec. 17th, 2015.
Leïla wraps up the series of interviews for our Expat Avenue “Expats Speak Out for TYT”… this is what she said:
- TYT: How long have you lived in Merida?
LGV: 5 years
- TYT: What attracted you to move here?
LGV: First of all, friends of mine that lived here. And then, this house, “La Cúpula”. I came into this house, and never stepped out of it.
- TYT: From where did you relocate?
LGV: I am originally from France, but I was relocated here from Tulum, Quintana Roo, where I lived for 20 years. I used to own a hotel there. Me and my husband sold the hotel and started a tour of the whole Yucatan Peninsula.
We had the intention to relocate here in Merida, but were not able to find a property that properly suited our needs and taste.
We made offers for three other houses here in Merida prior to acquiring “La Cupula”, but for some reason none of those transactions was completed. To the point where we thought that there was no point to keep searching, until one day, walking around town, just wandering on and off from Paseo de Montejo, all of the sudden we found this property and fell in love with it.
We were looking for a house in the downtown area, with a space big enough for a garden, and we found several beautiful houses but not with the kind of extra space that we wanted. We were able to find houses with that kind of space in García Ginerés or Avenida Colón, but we did not like the style of construction, and it was not our intention to demolish the whole thing and rebuild. In Itzimná there were a few houses on sale, but nothing interesting enough.
When we found La Cupula, we noticed that the property had been for sale for more than 5 years, and we thought there must something wrong with this place, how come it has not been sold already? And when we stepped into the house, we were just astonished by the beauty of the place and bought it.
Once we bought it, several other people (foreigners and nationals) told us: “Yes, we went to see the property when it was on sale, but for some reason we did not buy it”… so I think it was waiting for us.
When we sold our hotel in Tulum and decided to relocate, we considered Merida as a possibility, but we went to other places that we were also considering. We traveled to Argentina and Brazil, but were not convinced by either one of those two countries.
As I said previously, many of our friends were from Merida or had moved to Merida, so that was another powerful reason.
- TYT: How does Merida compare to other places you’ve lived regarding issues like security, services, medical facilities, air connectivity etc?
LGV: Security is one of the main attractives of this city, no doubt about it. The downtown area is very safe, and this street in particular is very safe and quiet. Our neighbors were kind of uncertain about having a Cultural Center as La Cupula right on their street, but now they have realized that the events only take place once or twice a month and that there is no big deal.
Regarding the Medical services, my husband had a serious health problem and the local doctors responded in a fantastic way. He was treated at two different hospitals with excellent results in both cases, Star Medica and Clinica de Mérida.
He had to see two doctors, one in each hospital, both were very kind, attentive and competent. But most of all, they were very honest, and that was the best thing about them, their honesty and ethics as medical doctors.
One of these doctors was an oncologist, and he frankly told my husband that the best option for him was to go to France for the treatment, He told my husband: “You have Social Security in France, some of the best specialists in the world for your condition live there, so my profesional advice for you is to go there“; and so we did, and everything came up perfectly.
I have absolute confidence in the medical doctors here in Merida. I believe they are very competent and well prepared. Many of them speak English 100%, and some even speak French too.
Some friends of mine went to the doctor here, they are from Canada and they were trying to explain their condition in Spanish (thinking the doctor could not speak English), and the doctor asked them to please speak in English, because it was very important to understand exactly what the symptoms were; and this doctor knew the terminology perfectly well in English, so my friends were very surprised and very pleased too.
In reference of other utilities or public services, we are very upset with the CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad), because as you know, “La Cúpula” is not a simple common house, but a historic monument, and as far as we know, when it comes to this kind of buildings, the electric lines have to go underground, in order not to damage the monument’s structure by making holes on the walls.
And when we asked CFE to do the job, they came up with a ridicously expensive budget, and they are supposed to do it without any charge, because the city hall is supposed to have a public budget for the installation and maintenance of the electric lines in the downtown area (or at least that’s what we thought).
The electric lines on the streets in this part of the city are a huge mess, some of the high tension wires are almost at ground level, which is very dangerous, people can get electrocuted. In a trip I made to Japan once, it was raining and I witnessed a fatal accident involving electric lines, the man died right in front of me. I consider that the authorities must take care of that situation before somebody gets killed.
Another problem is the maintenance and cleaning up of the sidewalks and streets. Not the garbage collection, that is not a big problem for us in this area (maybe in other parts of the city, but not here); I am talking about the streets.
I have to pay my workers to clean up the sidewalk in front of my property at least two or three times a week, but it is the duty of the City Hall to take care of this situation. That’s what we pay taxes for.
- TYT: Have you noticed improvements in any important areas during the time you’ve lived here?
LGV: It’s hard to be honest in this matter, I think the residents are the ones who take care of their properties, and of their streets, but again, it should be the government the responsible to provide these services.
For example, huge eighteen wheel trucks regularly pass in front of my house, this kind of vehicles are obviously too big for the streets in downtown Merida, and a few days ago, one of these trailers hit my car! But I am not the only person complaining about this, all the neighbors have complained about this situation. Some of their automobiles have been damaged by these trucks as well. I even took photographs to show them to the authorities, but they have not been able to solve this problem.
Some of the things I consider great is the fact that the “Carnaval” was taken to Xmatkuil; and also that the December fair is no longer held in La Plancha, it was very noisy. Also the Merida Fest during January is quite noisy for the people that live in downtown. I think it’s great that Merida has so many cultural and artistic events, but sometimes it’s too noisy and annoying for the downtown residents.
- TYT: Would you recommend Merida as a place of residence to friends and relatives?
LGV: I would recommend Merida as a place of residence 100 percent! In fact, friends of mine that came to visit, are now residents of this city.
And finally, I would like to say that many of the Expats that have come to live down here, especially in Centro, have contributed to form a productive community, and we all feel Yucatecos now, we all see Merida as our beloved city and in my case, that is the reason why we opened this cultural center, because we want to give something back something valuable to the society in Merida.
Interview by Alejandro Azcárate for TYT
The opinions expressed in this interview reflect those of the interviewee and not necessarily The Yucatan Times.
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