Who is the “lifestyle brand” expert for Yucatán? Of all the influential people who could claim the mantle, who will be our Martha Stewart?
Martha took a ramshackle farmhouse on two acres at 54 Turkey Hill Road South in Westport, and ran with it. It wasn’t a very practical house, but over time, she expanded it, made it distinctive and built a brand around it. She made it a good investment. Her magazine and TV shows were awesome. In person, she was a very scary person, but she knew how to carve out an identity, and she reinvented and shared that Connecticut gold-coast aesthetic with the world, with art-of-living tips anyone could use, anywhere. She covered not just cooking, but also décor, construction, crafting, landscaping, growing vegetables and cutting gardens, entertaining and even health.
(How would such a perfectionist fare in Mérida, where resigned expats mutter “T.I.M.,” or “This is Mexico.”)
One of her associates, Dr. Brent Ridge, took that formula and with his husband, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, bought a sprawling goat farm in rural upstate New York. They wrote very personal memoirs, started a line of merchandise that tied in to their farm, Beekman 1802. They raised their public profile and allowed themselves to be filmed in a reality TV show, where they were often upstaged by Polka Spot, their llama.
Don’t these stories start out sounding a lot like what so many people have done in Yucatán, particularly Mérida? You arrive, learn the ropes, and through trial and error and a high tolerance for risk, end up carving out a career in the Centro. You write a book or start a blog, and share what you’ve learned with people like me, who eventually catch the bug.
The Mérida English Library anthology 29 has a fictional story of a visitor who almost immediately after arriving dreams up a modern new take on the huipil, and her designs are an instant hit. She gathers up seamstresses and starts a workroom, immediately a successful businesswoman through force of her energy, optimism and creativity. Isn’t that something we all dream of? Stepping off the plane and taking Mérida by storm? The story in in 29 is fiction, but lots of people have stepped off that plane and put their stamp on the culture over time. Mérida holds great promise for an entrepreneur, as the owner of resorts, hair salons, design or marketing firms, and on and on, can tell you.
Now I’m waiting for some of the eligible expats (or maybe it should be someone born-and-raised there) to be the indisputable lifestyle brand of Yucatán. I think all the experts have been simply too busy. They are running their own businesses, catering to visitors or other wanna-be expats like me. It’s my fault, isn’t it. I’m creating too much of a distraction for there to be a Beekman Boys of Mérida.
I’m always telling my busy but harried friends in Mérida, “You should be in a reality show!” Wouldn’t you watch a show where a hopeful new arrival hunts for properties, finds one, builds, and so on and so on… Those House Hunters International shows almost seem like pilots for unsold programs, like the brief series that followed skater Brian Boitano to Italy. Mérida, with all its challenges and potential, would be the perfect setting.
The lifestyle brand expert should be as rounded as the Beekman Boys, but preferably as comprehensive as Martha. Cooking, cleaning, landscaping, growing your own veggies and fruits, crafting, caring for pets, living on a property that demands your constant time and attention. Lots of expats are addressing one or two of these. Who can do it all? The Yucatán Brand should probably be a couple, because it’s a lot to ask one person to master all these things. A Martha comes around just once in a lifetime.