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Love those floors!

One of the first things we noticed about properties for sale here in Merida was the floors. No kidding. Because many of the floors, even in the most humble of stores or homes, are covered with beautiful mosaico tiles. These tiles are made here in Merida, based on a technology brought here from Spain centuries ago. And as far as we know, the method and many of the designs haven’t changed much in the ensuing years.

Many years ago, we had the pleasure of being invited into a small tile manufacturing company, called Pisos y Mosaicos La Peninsular, and allowed to photograph the process. At the front of the old colonial building in the south of Merida is the large and impressive showroom, where they sell traditional mosaicos as well as new, factory-made tiles. Behind the front rooms is a large open warehouse. Only a handful of men work there in the back making the tiles on two presses, while stacks and stacks of tiles sit out to dry.

The process starts with the mold. Some of the molds at this shop were made over 50 years ago, and according to the owner, the people who can make a good mold here in Merida can be counted on one hand. The owner, Ignacio, who has since become a friend, treasures his vintage molds. Over the years, Ignacio has acquired more vintage molds and has developed workmen who can create new ones. Molds can be made to order, or you can choose one of the old ones. You can also choose the traditional colors for a design, or order your own color scheme.

The Process of Making Mosaico Tiles

The men start by pouring a thick wet sandy concrete into a square mold. The design mold is then set on top of the concrete, and colored pottery slip is poured into the different areas of the mold according to the design. This is all done very quickly. The package is then pressed by an old, oily, noisy hydraulic press for less than a minute, and then spit out on the other side. The end result is a 20 cm by 20 cm tile that is about an inch thick and quite heavy. The tile costs between $.80 and three dollars USD retail. One side is concrete and the other side is colored and designed. The colors at this stage are muted. The tile is carefully picked up and stacked with its brothers and left to dry for a few weeks. When it is thoroughly dry, it will be laid into a floor and then polished to bring out the bright colors. These tiles, to our surprise, are never baked or heated. The only thing that hardens the ingredients is pure pressure and time.

Pasta Tiles

The tiles are sometimes called “pasta tiles”, perhaps for the paste-like nature of the ingredients. They are ubiquitous in the colonial homes of Merida and are one reason why these homes are so charming and attractive to renovate. Of course, if you buy a house whose tiles have been removed, (to make way for modern, white tiles, which native Yucatecans seem to think are more desirable for some reason), you can buy and install new ones.

The tiles seem to get better with age. Some of us prefer to let them mellow and get a little distressed. Others treat them specially with weekly doses of kerosene, aceite rojo and other secret ingredients to keep their tile floors polished and shiny. If you inherit a floor that looks a little worn and you want to make it new, you can hire a crew to polido (polish) the tiles.

You can see these tile floors throughout Merida in the most elegant colonial homes and in the most modest little tendejones (corner stores). They are a constant reminder of the former elegance of Merida at the beginning of the 20th Century and the very-much-alive Merida today that still has the artisans and craftsmen available to restore that elegance.

To shop tiles at Mosaicos Peninsular, visit their website at:

mosaicoslapeninsular.com/ Ignacio (Nacho) owns Mosaicos Peninsular… tell him Yucatan Living sent you!

Here’s a website that has information about this type of tile all around the world:

www.concretecottage.com/encaustic-cement-tiles.htm

And another that lets you design your tiles online:
granadatile.com


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38 Responses to “Love those floors!”

  1. Hello,
    I would love to see this factory, could you tell me the addres?
    Klem

  2. Absolutely! The company is Mosaicos La Peninsular. It is located on Calle 62 #619 between 81 and 85. The owner is a very nice man named Ignacio Duran. He speaks English. His phone number is +52-999-923-1196. Please tell him that Ellen and Jim Fields send their regards.

  3. Thank you Hellen,

    I will visit this place this weekend with my husband and will give them your regards.

    Klem

  4. Ellen,

    I love these tiles, too. Some great examples at
    Yaxcopoil

  5. Thanks for posting this lovely piece on pasta tiles! Having just moved here (and also a working Gringo), and living here in Centro, these tiles have really captured my imagination. I hope to make it out to the factory, but your post is a great help– now linked to from my blog. :) Best regards, Karen

  6. [...] working gringos blog on their tour of the tile manufacturer read their article. [...]

  7. [...] A distinguishing feature of a Yucatecan home that everyone notices right away are the colorful tile floors [...]

  8. Hi I noticed your article and wanted to share with your friends that we are also proud manufacturers of these beautiful tiles in Nicaragua. We produce them in Nicaragua and sell them in the United States. Please pass along this info to your friends. Thank you

    Marcos
    http://www.granadatiles.com

  9. Thanks, Marcos! That’s a great website. It’s great that you are making these tiles available in the US. Good luck!

  10. [...] Love Those Floors! All About the beautiful pasta tile floors (Please rate this article)  Loading … [...]

  11. Thank you for this article. I have inquired with several people about tiles that look “authentic”….like the tiles you see in the old Colonials in Merida. I looked on-line too, but missed the websites. I cannot wait to visit the factory when we make it to Merida.
    We have beachfront property on the Yucatan coast, and want to include some of these tiles in the design, when we build.
    Thanks so much!

  12. love those mosaico floors. I was born in Cuba and there mosaicos were the standard floors used in many homes. Cuban mosaicos, although colorful, tend to be less “strident” than the ones used in Merida. The designs are similar, but sometimes different. I say thank God the Arabs introduced this art into Spain, since we all have benefited from it.

    I also want to note that I do find a lot of similarities between those Merida houses and Cuban houses. The rooms, the windows, the backyards etc.

  13. Hi Sergio
    You are totally right. I am also Cuban and in love with Merida, among other things because of its similarities with Cuba.
    Antonio

  14. Por favor Sergio Y Antonio escribanme, acabo de comprar una casa en la calle 43 entre 64 y 66 y pienso ponerle pasta de Cuba, pues soy Cubana y me encantaria charlar con ustedes. Escribanme a lloddo [at] netzero [dot] net

  15. Great informative article, lovely pictures;yes, thank the Moorish via the Spaniards… my question is what if I wanted to have some shipped to say, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA? How do I ship them from Merida? Maria A.

  16. Hola, Maria!
    From what we understand, both Mosaicos Peninsular (one of our sponsors) and the other supplier in Ucu (a town just northwest of Merida on way to Hunucma) ship orders to the States. You should contact them directly.

  17. Dear Friends, I’m Wilhelm Stevens with Mosaicos de Diseño located in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. We are manufacturers of this great material and we sell our products all around Mexico and US, using our brand Original Mission Tile, we are the largest manufacturer in Mexico and our products has been recognized as the best quality cement tiles. Please take a look of our products.
    Best regards.

  18. Hi WG’s,

    With so many readers renovating houses, I was thinking this site might be a great place to create a ‘swap’ forum. Specifically, I was thinking if home renovators had mosaicos they were getting rid of they could post a photo here for sale or swap with other home renovators. Possible?

    Lorraine

  19. Just wanted to say hi and thanks for the weekend on Curacao. Nice site.

  20. Thank you so much for this info and the photos. I have spent hours tonight searching for cement tile info on the web. I want these traditional tiles for a (hopefully ) hurricane proof house I’m building right now on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

    http://www.ConcreteCottage.com or try the link on my name.

    I think it is absolutely the best choice for this traditional Italian styled house made from HUGE concrete dry stack blocks. It is like man-made stone and the guest house that we built first survived H. Ivan great while most around us did not.

    Now I think I need to be planning a trip to Mexico !

  21. You know, we’ve always wondered why people in the US continue to built houses from sticks and straw in hurricane zones, when the people of the Yucatan, who basically live in the same zone, have been building homes from stone and concrete for decades now. Our houses (made of stone and concrete) have absolutely no trouble in hurricanes.

  22. thanks so much for this piece…met Nacho at mosaicos peninsular…so helpful!
    we are looking for handmade pasta tiles of a smaller scale, and heard there was someone there who could make say 2 inch by 2 inch or 4 inch by 4 inch tiles. do you know anyone who we could speak to about a custom order?
    thanks again!

  23. Hola, Jaime…

    The other tile company which is located in Ucu (a town outside Merida on the way to Sisal and Celestun) makes the smaller tiles, which are called tacos, if we remember correctly.

  24. Those tiles are great. I’d love to learn how to manufacture them…Am setting up production of ordinary cementitious tiles and pavers..so I guess I could add style and variety to my product line by making these mosaico tiles.
    Any one willing to help? Where can I buy the molds and press machine? Any where I can get books on the subject?
    Any help highly appreciated!!

  25. My husband and I have been talking about the age old (old age?) question of “where to retire?” Our primary concerns being healthcare (we’ve both had run-ins with cancer and other problems), safety, climate and low cost of living. We visited Xcaret last year as part of my recovery and fell in love with the peninsula and people, so we decided to look around Mexico. Needless to say, following his criteria I was delighted to discover Merida. Hubby thinks I’m insane, but I already know I’ll be at home there even though I’ve not been there…yet. We’re working on getting our house in Florida ready to sell ASAP, then we’ll be down to see if it is everything it seems. If it is, we’ll be putting in an offer on a house before we go home and sell off our lives.

    Thank you for your website, I love it. I do have a couple of questions if I may impose on your time, knowledge and experience.

    I love the floors but so many of the redo’s we encounter have a lot of odd, mismatched, patched, etc. problems. One of my thoughts was the possibility of taking them up and reusing some of them elsewhere. Do you know if this is even possible? Also, do you know how they take to stains and paints?

    I’ve been virtually restoring houses I see online as a little mental exercise and my son has suggested I just might be able to make a little something with our nest egg flipping houses or even hiring out my creative talents to others working on redo’s. Is there a real market for something like that there, or is it my imagination?

    Ok, one last question and I’ll let you go back to living the life I want to lead. One place we’re very interested in (I’m ready to put in an offer sight unseen, hubby is a little more cautious hehe) is a block from the zoo. Can you tell me anything about that neighborhood? We actually like the idea of hearing the animals from the back terrace ;-D

    Thanks so much for all you do;

    Doni

  26. Hola, Doni…
    The mosaicos can be removed and reused… in fact, this is often done when restoring a house. The first house we lived in had “carpets” of the old tiles surrounded by areas of white cement as there had not been enough of the old tiles to cover the entire room. We bought some old tiles from someone who had ripped out a floor and wanted something new. So yes, its done all the time. As for stains and paints, probably not. If you want to have a different colored floor, just rip out the tiles and put in cement with the color you want. The tiles are polished and cleaned to maintain a shiny surface that repels stains.
    There are a lot of gringos who came down here, loved to restore the houses and have made a living at it… some with more success than others. So, yes, your instincts are correct… there is a market for that definitely. Our advice would be to do it for yourself first so you can learn all the differences and distinctions in construction and design here. Things are different here, and usually for a reason. A lot of expats think they know better… but they usually don’t.
    The house we rented for a year was by the zoo, and we walked the dogs by there almost daily. We like the area. Some streets are nicer than others, of course. The area near the zoo has not been as renovated as some other areas (Santa Ana, Santiago) but it has great potential. And its centrally located between downtown and the airport.
    Thanks for reading Yucatan Living!

  27. This article is fantastic. We enjoy learning more and more about the Merida area. We are planning to visit in early January, 2009 to research the purchase of property while enjoying the Arts Festival. We also would like the address of this factory for our upcoming visit.

  28. There are at least two factories producing pasta or mosiaco tiles. The one featured here is conveniently located in the Centro area of Merida (see the link to their website at the end of the article for address, etc). Another is in Ucu and is a much bigger, albiet pricier, operation. The factory in Ucu is alongside the road on the left as you pass through the city from the direction of Merida.

    I’ve heard there are others, but these are the two I am familiar with. Nacho, at Mosiacos Peninsular is highly recommended by many ex-pats. The Ucu plant exports to the USA and has some interesting varieties (pasta tiles including recycled glass chips that are then polished to resemble terrazo flooring).

    Remember that these tiles are made to order, so don’t expect overnight availability.

  29. Hola Senor Ignacio

    Me gusta mucho el mosaico que tienes en el primer pagina de tu website….el flor de colores turqesa, verde, amarillo y rojo.. yo estoy construidendo me casa aqui en vallarta y el primero piso es en este color verde..y el segundo piso en turquesa y este diseno puedo complementar mucho..me puedes mandar mas fotos, precios y detalles de tamanos…etc.
    Gracias,

    Saskia
    52-322-223-1340

  30. [...] now reincarnated as Mexico International), fallen in love with the colonial architecture and mosaico tiles, and traveled down to explore. We spent one day with Jen, who worked for Mitch and now owns [...]

  31. [...] when you do find them. At La Peninsular, the tiles are still made by hand (read our article and see photos of the process here), just as they have been for over 100 years, using hydraulic pressure, instead of mechanical [...]

  32. We can’t recommend Ignacio and Mosaicos La Peninsular enough. They were extremely helpful a patient with us when we were picking out our tiles and they got them to us faster than we expected. We had a small problem with some of the zocalos in the living room being too dark and Ignacio replaced them within 48 hours. We are extremely satisfied with our new floor.

  33. I love these tiles, but would prefer to have them used in an outline in the floor, rather than as a complete floor or rug.

  34. [...] For information on mosaico tiles (old and new), how they are made and where to buy them, visit our article on Mosaicos. [...]

  35. Hello,
    Thanks for this great website.
    If i want info on how to make the molds or if anyone might be able to teach me the basic steps on how to make a mold for the tiles and start up info to set up this business. Of course i will be able to pay him for this service.
    I would appreciate your help in this matter.
    Thanks and regards,
    Wadih.

  36. Thanks so much for this informative article and for directing us to Mosaicos la Penisular. We love the pasta tile floors we see everywhere in Merida and wanted to take a few tiles home with us to Missouri as a reminder of our beautiful “White City”. We can’t say enough about how helpful and friendly Ignacio Duran, the owner, was. He was very patient with us as we “oohed and aahed” over his tiles and finally picked out our patterns. We plan to use the tiles on some outdoor tables and to make serving trays.

  37. Nacho has just supplied another truckload of pasta tiles for floors we are changing in our house. There’s just no way to say how Easy he is to deal with, how Friendly he is, how Patient he is, how Willing to accommodate odd foreigners… haha :-)

    Sr. Ignacio is full of good advice – if you need something in pasta floors, it is the place to go. There are also some patterns of ceramic tile floors, various cement construction materials like persianas, etc.

  38. Incredible! I love Mexican tiles! Have you seen http://ShrunkenCatHeads.etsy.com ??? She makes them into jewelry!!

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