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.
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:
Angela Downing 7 years ago
I had newly made pasta tile installed in the old colonial part of my home about six months ago. The tile has been polished twice and each time after just two days lost the beautiful shine and became dull mostly in the centers of the tiles. I have used tratamop as was recommended and have not used any other cleaners or water on the floor. There is no foot traffic on the tile and I run the dry mop across it every other day. Can anyone tell me what could be the problem? Thank you.
sian jones 4 years ago
I have been given Estudio Abreu's name as a recommendation for a house I will be renovationing shortly in Merida and saw that you are listed on their website giving a recommendation. I wonder if I could give you a call on whatsapp at some point to have a quick chat about your experiences with them. There are so many people to choose from it is making my head spin! My number is 447725222917 or sianjones100 on facebook. Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
Liliane Karnouk 8 years ago
1. My tiles are lovely but look old and sad, some are dull some shine. Can you lead me websites about restoring pasta tiles ?
2. I also discovered some old stencils beneath the paint layers. They are beautiful but need some color enhancement? Can you think of any produce that will make the color look wet , without sealing the walls?
YOUR WEBSITE IS FABULOUS. THANKS .
Sally 10 years ago
Incredible! I love Mexican tiles! Have you seen http://ShrunkenCatHeads.etsy.com ??? She makes them into jewelry!!
CasiYucateco 11 years ago
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.
Jo Cossairt 11 years ago
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.
Wadih 13 years ago
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,
Yucatan Living - Colonial Renovation in South Merida 13 years ago
[...] For information on mosaico tiles (old and new), how they are made and where to buy them, visit our article on Mosaicos. [...]
Brenda Thornton 13 years ago
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.
Steve 13 years ago
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.
Yucatan Living - News: Obama comes to Mexico 14 years ago
[...] 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 [...]
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