Mexican actor Luis Gerardo Méndez realized recently that he is not merely a performer, but a storyteller. He just cowrote and produced his first film, Half Brothers (available on demand from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), a comedy that tells the story of a successful young Mexican businessman, Renato, as he discovers he has an American half-brother. They could not be more different (this is when comedy strikes), and embark on a journey to discover Renato’s father’s story in the USA. He will also appear in the upcoming season of Narcos: Mexico.
When he’s not incredibly busy, Luis spends time at his retreat, La Distancia, on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca. This is not a vacation house but rather an artistic retreat on a steep slope in Mazunte, a small coastal town in southern Mexico, designed for Luis’s artistic endeavors and those of his fellow actors, directors, and friends across creative industries. He collaborated with architect Paul Curuchet, who runs a successful architectural firm, Atemporal, in Mexico City. Both wanted to craft a house that is environmentally friendly and discreet, so the mountains and the sea become the stars of the show.
Luis has been traveling to this part of his country since he was a young acting student, a time he remembers as particularly alive and happy, though he was penniless. Since then, he dreamed of building a house in the mountains overlooking the sea for him and his friends. During those adventurous years, he became acquainted with the local community, a close-knit group that likes to keep watch over who comes and goes. A local taxi driver showed Luis and Paul the property on the mountain, and they fell in love with it immediately. It was not an obvious choice, since it was particularly steep, but the pair knew they wanted a terraced building, so it was a perfect match for their needs.
The design took two years, and four more for the construction. The house incorporates local materials like stone and tropical woods, applied in the traditional way but with a contemporary design. They used tiled floors designed in the workshop of the famous Oaxacan plastic artist Francisco Toledo. La Metropolitana, a design studio in Mexico City, provided some of the wood furniture and the rest came from Paul’s firm. Luis and his partner traveled to Teotitlán del Valle, a village in the central valley of Oaxaca, famous for its high-quality carpets, and choose several that fit their taste. The house’s red crockery comes from San Marcos Tlapazola, another town in central Oaxaca, that makes wonderful, earthy, clay pieces.
By naming the retreat La Distancia Luis underlines its isolated character and its purpose: to distance yourself from your worries and get swept up by the fantastic tropical forest and the sea, so you can focus on your creative process. That the house helps people channel their creativity is a source of pride for Luis. That, and the fact that La Distancia conveys the image of the country he likes to channel: friendly, refined, environmentally conscious, and connected with the best of its traditions.