Verana is Heinz and Vero’s Fitzcarraldo.
What is Fitzcarraldo?
“Fitzcarraldo is an image that somehow becomes lodged deep in your brain—maybe washed there by a dream, or smuggled inside a book, or planted during a casual conversation—which then grows into a wild and impractical vision that keeps scrambling back and forth in your head like a dog stuck in a car that’s about to arrive home, just itching for a chance to leap headlong into reality.” – Werner Herzog
The difference between going on vacation anywhere else and going to Verana is the immersion. Your vacation becomes introspective, like a mushroom trip without the drugs, like falling into a world of complete comfort, relaxation and fulfillment.
What I mean by immersion is that it is not a hotel but a community. An inviting community, the transparency of how it functions begins on the docks of Boca de Tomatlan as workers load food and supplies onto the same boats that will take you away to the inconceivable hotel in the jungle that is Verana.
A small book in every room chronicles the story of Verana and really sheds light on the fact this place was once an overgrown jungle hillside. You can see Heinz and Vero camping in the skeleton of the Casa Grande, cooking over a small fire. To see what it has become from there is almost unbelievable.
I sat on the edge of the infinity pool reading outdated New Yorker magazines while sipping a smoothie in a perfectly chilled glass, overlooking the Yelapa bay and watching boats go in and out.
Verana is an immersion because it doesn’t fight nature, it invites it. One evening, I sat on my bed and a 4ft coati (a jungle-style badger) tip-toed across my room. I screamed, but it was more frightened than I was and scampered away quickly like Wile E. Coyote. It’s doubtful that any other hotels would have a 3ft iguana walking and feeding on the roof of your room, keeping you up all night. It was a disruption that I gladly accepted, though, as I would see him sunbathe on the rocks of my porch every morning in complete tranquility.
There is a thoughtfulness to Verana, everything is considered. Not only will every meal be specially prepared to your dietary restrictions (be it gluten-free, a lactose intolerance, or any other pseudo-diet you can think of). But your coffee and choice of oat, almond or whole milk will be delivered to you in a small bird house outside of your room (safe from the hungry wildlife who cohabitate with guests).
Also, there is a library on the property. It’s a beautiful, simple structure, with a vermillion orange exterior, doors on both ends, small cobalt pillows lining the window sills, and a Japanese stone garden surrounding it. I can’t help but think of Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” when I think of the library in Verana.
The take-away from four days there, as I sit here in my apartment quarantined in Los Angeles, is we need to be more like Verana. Why aren’t there more places like Verana? Why are these special places so rare?
Simultaneously, why are we in the situation we are in now? The comfort of our daily lives is shattered when nature surges back, and it all falls apart.
The lesson the earth is trying to teach us is that we haven’t learned to live congruently with nature. If there was a tree, we cut it down, etc, etc. Heinz’s architectural philosophy was to build with and around nature, to purposefully not cut down trees, to embrace the sporadicity of nature. The layout and landscape of the space was dictated by what already exists. The V-House is a perfect example of that. Its design suspends the hotel in the canopy of the jungle, held up by 25ft steel beams, and its footprint is only an 8sqft base on the jungle floor.
When I was at Verana, I felt instantly at home. Maybe we need to learn that our dream vacation shouldn’t be an escape. It is a lesson on how we should approach our daily lives; with thoughtfulness and respect for nature. That we don’t need as much as we think we do, that time is relative, that we may need to change our lives.
We are all on vacation right now. When we get back from this vacation, our lives will be fundamentally changed and hopefully more like a Verana.
Thank you to Bennet Perez for this tribute to Verana. Discover more of his work here.