Casa Hamaca Guesthouse in Valladolid

by Denis Larsen
(Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico)

Denis reading in his hammock.

Denis reading in his hammock.

About four years ago (when I was 65 years old) I took a two week driving trip to the five Mayan states with a family from Chiapas. Along the way we stayed or ate in numerous old colonial structures. When we completed the trip I decided that it was time to move to Mexico full time (I had been commuting to the Yucatan for about three years and visiting for an additional five years). I was based on Isla Mujeres so when I drew up a list of possible cities in which to look for a casa, it was only natural to list them geographically... Valladolid, Izamal, Merida, Campeche and San Cristobel de las Casas... in order of proximity to Isla. These five cities all combined a rich colonial past with a vibrant Mayan present. I was in love with both cultures. So I started looking in Valladolid since it was closest to Isla Mujeres. On my third house-hunting visit to Valladolid I found what was to become Casa Hamaca Guesthouse (www.CasaHamaca.com). The garden was untended with few plants, the house was a mess, the kitchen a disaster and the bathrooms untouchable. It had been neglected for years. The ceiling in the main hall was so low that I could touch it with my outstretched arm. But there were stone columns supporting the veranda roof. There were some wooden windows and doors that looked worth saving. The iron work was rusted but salvageable. It had good bones. It had the potential to become a great home with lush gardens. Located directly on sleepy San Juan Parque (Square), my neighbors were a very old church, three buildings that dated back hundreds of years, an elementary school and various more modern buildings. A real neighborhood in microcosm. So I made an offer for the house and it was accepted.

I went through the usual mistakes until I found tradesmen and craftsmen that would work with me. I gutted every room, tore the roof off the main hall, moved doors and rearranged just about everything. I enlarged the opening to the courtyard when I put on a new roof almost 50 centimeters higher than the original. When I added a masonary stairway to the roof, I realized that building a second story would give me a number of benefits including five more bedrooms with baths along with a large classroom/dormitory plus storage and utility space. More importantly, it allowed the small courtyard opening in the roof to grow to become an three story atrium with lots of light and air but without the rain. To justify the cost of the second floor I decided that I must open a bed and breakfast to help pay for the new construction.

So I am now the owner/operator of Casa Hamaca Guesthouse, a bed, breakfast and healing center in Valladolid. Right now we have eight suites ready for guests. We work hard to make Casa Hamaca the best possible experience it can be. We target independent travelers and small groups and provide them with a rich visual, cultural and culinary Yucatec Mayan adventure in modern day comfort. We often take visitors (at no extra charge) to visit local events that are not on anyone's tourist calendar. Trip Advisor (www,tripadvisor.com) ranks us #1 of bed and breakfasts in Valladolid. And by cross-referencing their reviews, you can discover that Casa Hamaca is the best lodging of any kind between Merida and Isla Mujeres. I still do various kinds of volunteer work throughout the Yucatan, I still provide massage services to both locals and paying guests and I still teach continuing education massage and bodywork courses as an approved provider by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

And I still have time to do and see things that I find of interest. I know (and learn from) at least five shaman, I am invited to weddings, birthdays, baptisms, funerals and quincea├▒eras. I go exploring in the jungle looking for cenotes and grutas. I read and nap in my hammock. I visit my daughter and her family in the US a few times a year. I eat Sunday breakfast at the local market... since I go early there are few hispanics or gringos... almost everyone up at that hour on a Sunday is Mayan and from one of the surrounding villages. I am acquainted with lots of people and always run into someone I know when I go to the supermarket, the bank or just stroll through the main square. I'm treated with respect... as I treat those about me and those I come in contact with. I'm living pretty high on the hog.

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