Developing a love for Mexico starting with travels in the 1970s, the U.S. owners of Casa Felipe Flores bought the first of two adjacent houses at No. 36 Felipe Flores Street in 1991 as a vacation and prospective part time retirement residence for themselves. The property was purchased from members of a Mexican family who had owned the house for 50 years. Major restoration of the house and converting the entire back portion of the property to a courtyard, bedrooms and a sun deck, required 22 months, including time for approval of architectural drawings by the government’s historic preservation organization and applying for and obtaining building permits. The project was completed in late 1993 and celebrated with a large family gathering for the end-of-year holidays, highlighted by the surprising Zapatista uprising on New Years Eve. Following retirement a few years later it was decided to try living six months of the year in San Cristóbal. The experiment resulted in a decision to greatly increase the time in Mexico, leading to the next experiment: the opening of a bed and breakfast in early 1999. Immediately realizing the need for more space, the adjacent property at No. 34 Felipe Flores Street was acquired and restored for the owners’ personal residence and today one of the six guest rooms is located on the casa privada side with its own courtyard and outside sitting area.. From 2001 to 2009, the room was occupied by “La Abuela,” the Mother of owner Nancy Orr, who passed away here at age 95.
Many of our guests ask about the age and historical information related to the two colonial houses, both of which are listed on the Registry of National Monuments by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and sit on property of identical size. Despite best efforts to learn the date(s) the houses were constructed, local government archives contain no such information. A consensus emerged, however, through discussions with a number of San Cristóbal natives that the houses were built in the period between about 1810 and 1860. This would classify them as youngsters compared to the 1528 founding of Ciudad Real (Royal City), renamed San Cristobal de Las Casas in 1829 in honor of the City’s first Bishop, Bartolome Las Casas, who arrived with the Conquistadors and became known (and controversial at the time) for befriending and protecting the indigenous Maya population. Also considerably older than the houses was the San Cristóbal native for whom the hotel is named, Doctor José Felipe Flores, born in 1751. At a young age he left town to study medicine at the Jesuit University of San Carlos in Guatemala. He later became a member of the faculty and among his teachings were the introduction of dissection, his invention of the articulated skeleton and models of organs of the human body. He was considered a hero and earned much fame when, during a small pox epidemic, he saved the lives of thousands of Guatemalans with inoculations using a medicine of his creation. These heroics attracted the attention of King Ferdinand VII of Spain who hired Jose Felipe Flores for his personal physician, but later prevented the doctor from returning to Central America because of his support of the French revolution. The San Cristobal native died in Madrid in 1824 at age 73.