At long last I have gone and done it. After ten years of avoiding the issue, I am getting the house a face lift.
I actually liked the patina that the front of the place had developed over the years. My house has a pleasant, traditional design. It's a classic of its kind with a stately presence, but with the wear and tear it has endured over the years, it has blended into the street, and I like that.
I always figured that an unkempt facade provided a small measure of security, assuming that any potential house robbers would be less attracted to places that did not look well-to-do. And these old stone houses are notoriously difficult to keep fresh looking anyhow. It's easier just to relax and not fret about frequent touch ups and repairs. After all, if a house is this old, why can't it look its age? Those of us humans who are at peace with the aging process decide to take care of our health but not worry excessively about normal wrinkles, sags and graying or falling hair. Cracks, peeling paint and mold streaks add character to an old house in the tropics and can be gracefully ignored in my book, at least to a certain extent.
But things deteriorated beyond the "gracefully aging" stage. This was brought home to me not long ago when I walked out the front door one morning and found several chunks of the facade, each about the size of a large candy bar, laying where they had fallen on the sidewalk. I realized that despite my affection for the house's patina, for reasons of safety it was in need of a face lift.
Actually, for years neighbors had been asking me why I didn't redo my house. "I thought gringos liked things nice and new," one said. A number of buildings on the block have been redone and freshly painted over the past couple of years, and in its scruffiness my place was beginning to stand out from the rest.
The city has a program to preserve and restore the city's architectural heritage, officially called, "Programa de Rescate de Fachadas del Ayuntamiento de Mérida." Literally that means, Facade Recovery Program of the City of Mérida. The program employs a squadron of skilled artisans who repair and carefully reproduce deteriorating facades of historic buildings in the city. The work is done free of cost. All a building owner has to do is get on the list, wait for the work to be scheduled, sign a contract, and provide needed materials. It's very organized. A detailed budget of materials and their costs is delivered beforehand and the contract describing the building owner and city's responsibilities during the project is explained in detail.
That's a pretty good deal, and the quality of the work is top notch. Construction makes a bit of a mess of the house, but will be worthwhile in the end. The historic facade will be renewed and ready to accumulate another few decades of patina before it needs serious attention again. I was a bit tired of living with the pink prior owners had painted the place years ago anyhow, so now I can make a change. And more important, no innocent passerby is going to get clobbered in the head by a falling chunk of my house.