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Paula Sievert

Paula Sievert of Galeria Merida

YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and where did you move from and why did you move?

Paula: I moved to the Yucatan from New York City. Brooklyn to be exact, in August 2002. Why I moved here is still an unanswered question for me. I am, or was, one of those New Yorkers who just saw no reason to cross the Hudson. On a quick trip with my brother to Merida, I saw the error of my thinking. Lights began flashing, bells began ringing and the next thing I knew it was two days later and I had purchased a house.

YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?

Paula: I don’t really have an answer for that. The bells rang, the lights flashed and the force took over? Magic of the Yucatan?

YL: What did/do you plan to do after you move(d) here?

Paula: I wasn’t quite sure. A big consideration was to open an art gallery, which I did. However, it took almost one year to renovate and explore the art world here before opening the gallery.

YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here?

Paula: Yes, only on a larger scale than first anticipated.

YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?

Paula: I bought my house before I moved – before I really knew the city. My decision for me was right – visit a city for two days, buy a house, and move six months later. I never recommend that anyone ever be as compulsive as I was!

YL: Now that you live here, how do you like it?

Paula: I absolutely love Merida. Now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else!

YL: Would you ever return to your former location?

Paula: I still love New York and would live nowhere else in the States. But to return to live permanently? Not in this lifetime.

YL: What are the most striking differences between living here vs. living where you lived before?

Paula: Peace, tranquility, quiet, and safety are several descriptive words that come to mind.

YL: What do you love about living here?

Paula: What do I love? What’s not to love?

YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?

Paula: A good cup of deli coffee, a bagel with a schmear and the Sunday Times.

YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here?

Paula: Fun. The people I interact with are wonderful. Even the government offices are pleasant to deal with (believe that!). Regulations and licensing is much less constricted and easier to deal with.

YL: Do you have to do more than one thing to make a living?

Paula: No, running the art gallery is sufficient.

YL: Do you work as much as you used to "back home" or are your work habits different here?

Paula: The amount of work is equivalent, but the tranquility of the work is much greater.

YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?

Paula: Lucky for us – we get to stay!

YL: How is your Spanish?

Paula: Not as good as it should be. I came with a smattering of New York “subway” Spanish, which turned out to be absolutely useless .

YL: Is the language barrier a problem for you in your day to day life?

Paula: Not so far. A few words of Spanish go a long way particularly since almost everyone speaks some level of English. Shame on me for not being more fluent!

YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone planning a move to the Yucatan?

Paula: Forget everything you think you know about real estate, construction and what else you may have read on the numerous websites about Yucatan because very little of it actually applies.

YL: Are you a Mexican citizen?

Paula: Not yet.

YL: If you aren’t, do you think you will become one?

Paula: Yes, it’s a matter of one more year.

YL: Why would or wouldn’t you?

Paula: I’m fortunate to be allowed to live here. To be a good citizen, you have to really be one.

YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?

Paula: The people of Yucatan couldn’t be friendlier.

YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico?

Paula: It’s an emerging economy. The belief that you can do anything in the States is a reality here. The ability for me to open a successful art gallery in New York is out of the question. But here, I can and did.

YL: What are your plans for the future here?

Paula: To continue selling art and exporting outside the peninsula.

YL: Do you see your business growing?

Paula: My business has outgrown its current space. We have purchased another building and are in a transitional phase.

YL: Do you see yourself staying?

Paula: Yes, for a very long time.

YL: Any last words?

Paula: Every morning I awake and thank the forces that rule the universe for directing my path to paradise.

Paula Sievert owns Galeria Merida which is in the process of moving to its new home in the Mejorada district of Merida.


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18 Responses to “Paula Sievert”

  1. AWwww – I didn’t get bells or lights – All I remember from my first “landing” was a twinkle in the eye of the airport employee, as I came off the plane. I think he “knew” that the magic was at work and I would be under its spell before I could get to the front door. Isn’t it amazing how otherwise reasonably sane and intelligent people speak of surrendering to the “magic” of a city – to this degree (!) – and only the folks back home wonder if we have lost our minds completely! LOL

  2. Reading your post made my morning . I’m still smiling. We also followed our hearts , or actually we found our hearts here in Merida.

    The things I love most here are simple thin: the beauty in nature and how kind the neighborhood people are . I’m 52 years old and have never felt more relaxed in my life then I do now. We just moved here 2 months ago , after being here twice visiting friends. I would really like to know where you have your art gallery. I did oil painting back in the states and have all my supplies in storage there. I would like to find suppplies here and would love to see your gallery. Thanks agian for the post, it really brought a smile. Keep following your heart, it’s not leading you wrong.

  3. I wish Paula the best in her relocation of the Galeria Merida but felt it odd that her “one most important piece of advice” to give people planning to move to Merida would be to “Forget everything you think you know about real estate, construction and what else you may have read on the numerous websites about Yucatan because very little of it actually applies.” This advice is especially odd since the Working Gringos are doing such an excellent job on their own website detailing their own good and bad experiences during their building process. We all learn from them which pitfalls to avoid.

    To suggest that the little you read on the local web sites regarding Real Estate, building, renovation, etc…”actually applies” is pretty odd, especially since these are actual peoples’ Actual Experiences with those businesses that are being discussed. Whether the venue is online, face to face, or in a court room is moot.

    My one piece of advice would be, before hiring a contractor, to check the Profeco office on Calle 49 for a history of bad dealings. That office keeps track of complaints against local business people. Anyone can understand one or two complaints but once you start to get into double-digits, then you have a right to assume a problem might exist. Get several references. If a builder has been building for 6 or 7 years and can give you only 1 or 2 references that will say something nice about him, I would consider that a serious red flag.

    The other advice is to shop for art and support Galeria Merida and local artists!!

  4. Paula, where exactly is your gallery? vivo en Merida, me gustaria conocerla.

  5. Elizabeth, I couldn’t agree with you more. Websites like and other online forums were a wealth of information for me once I decided to buy and renovate a colonial house in Merida Centro. I wouldn’t have known anything about Prefeco if it weren’t for the online forums. Thru the online forums I’ve met and made friends with many other expats.
    I’ve never visited Paul’s gallery, I look forward to checking it out soon.

  6. I enjoyed Paula’s interview, and recently watched an episode of HGTV about Merida.

    Ironically, my husband and I have been researching the area, for a possible move. It’s nice to hear of other Americans that have had “good” experiences with purchasing property. It is also comforting to hear that they love Merida. I am looking forward to visiting the area late June.

  7. I would greatly appreciate being able to contact Paula or have her contact me via e-mail. I own a home in Telchac Puerto and in the states. I also am considering openning an art galery import business in RI and am wondering if Paula would be willing to talk with me about this.

  8. Paula can be contacted through the gallery at info [at] galeriamerida [dot] com.

  9. I saw Paula on the HGTV show about Merida. I want to know how people deal with tropical heat who are from cooler climates? I love Kauai weather but have been looking at Merida real estate for many years. How hot does it get??? How many Americans live in Merida? The show said there was no polution. Is this because it is near the sea, and because there is little industry there? Love to have any comments from those living in Merida.

  10. Per HGTV:

    House Hunters International
    Episode HHINT-305

    • April 02, 2008 10:30 PM ET/PT
    • April 03, 2008 2:30 AM ET/PT
    • June 20, 2008 10:30 PM ET/PT
    • June 21, 2008 2:30 AM ET/PT

    Making the Move to Mexico

    World traveler and artist Malaya Quinn and her teenage daughter, Grace, have been living in northern California for the last 13 years, but they are beginning to feel a little restless and in need of a change of scenery. In a past visit to the Yucatan, they were really taken by the town of Merida — so much so that they have decided to move down there and buy a place. Enter real estate agent Paula Sievert, who is pretty confident that she can find a small Colonial within their budget in the historic part of Merida.

  11. Thank you, Casi. As always, you are full of good information and a great asset to this website!

  12. Hi WGs! Thanks for the kind words, but I’m just a groupie…

    I know this will come off like a ‘plug,’ but… I’ve ordered a couple Working Gringo things: the Hacienda Calendar and a Santa Lucia jewelry box. I just want to say how “wowed” I was with both. The calendar is super large format. I don’t know how large for sure, but let’s just say much wider than the usual ‘large’ store-bought calendars. The hacienda photos are so nice. I’m sure it is probably the way CafePress prints things, but some of the vegetation has a foggy effect. There’s sharp and a little big of fuzzy in each picture, which makes for a nice surreal effect on every page. Maybe like the hacienda buildings are approaching us across time.

    The little Merida Corner Sign box is well-made and was wonderfully received as a gift this afternoon. Honestly, I couldn’t have been happier with those things.

    For those who cannot find the Hacienda Book (those large format Mexican books often go out of print so, so fast), this calendar is just the perfect next best thing.

    Would the WG’s consider telling us which haciendas are on which months? I know a couple by sight, but there are at least a couple more that have me stumped. Better yet, maybe I should stop by sometime and you’ll drive me out there?

    Well, ok, the names at least..? Please?

  13. Beth, it gets HOT. Hehehehe…

    Hot and humid. The hottest is usually during the ‘dry months’ when it can be over 100. But that isn’t as bad as 90 and heavy humidity.

    I don’t know how everyone copes. The lucky ones cope by getting a job in an air conditioned office. What I prefer is to ‘live’ in the early mornings and the evenings and nights. So, sleep, wake up at dawn, piddle around with this or that. Have a small mid day meal and take a nice nap for a couple hours during the hot part of the day. Wake up again, visit friends, read, run errands, enjoy dinner in the evening air.

    Although it seems less consistent than in the past, most ‘wet season’ days get warm, clouds suddenly appear in the mid-afternoon, often a tropical downpour just like someone’s emptied an enormous bucket, then cooler breezy evenings.

    Yeah, it’s hot. :-O But you do get used to it. ;-)

  14. OK, Casi. We’ll tell you the names of the haciendas on the calendar but you have to go over to this page to find out:

    And by the way, anyone who wants to see or buy the calendar (or anything else…we particularly like the tote bags!), can go here:


  15. Hi Casi: Thanks for letting me know about the weather. Is it Hot in the winter and summer, or just the summer months?
    Beth on Kauai

  16. Hi Paula, I just finished watching the HGTV House Hunters International episode in which you were featured. And it captured my attention enough to Google you and your client, not only because Malaya Quinn lived with her 13-year old daughter Grace in San Rafael, California (as my daughter and I do), but we spent ten days in the Yucatan (Playa del Carmen) two summers ago and fell in love with almost everything about it. We also have the “gypsy spirit”! I really liked the style of the first house, the colorful one with the decorative tiles throughout for $110,000. But I absolutely fell in love with the ruin for $60K. I was glad she chose it and was very impressed with its renovation. If she hadn’t bought it, I would have! I wonder if she and Grace would ever want to swap their home in Merida with ours in San Rafael? Perhaps they want to see friends here from time to time and would rather stay in a home swap than a hotel? If you are still in touch with Malaya, then I would truly appreciate it if you could forward this inquiry to her and have her contact me. Many thanks and with continued best wishes for success in all that you do, Adrienne B. in San Rafael, CA

  17. Beth, It varies from hot and humid to hot and dry to a few occasional “nortes” in the winter that bring down the temperature to something like Spring time in temperate climates, but during the Winter in Merida.

  18. I was very interested in the artist from Marin County who moved to Marida and renovated the house there, on the HGTV show, House Hunters International.
    Do you have some more pictures of that house, especially the “after” photos.
    I thought they did a spectacular job on that.
    Jed Sakren


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