General Manager at Casa Silencio
Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Velazquez
How did you get into hospitality and eventually land at Casa Silencio?
I studied hospitality, tourism, and tourism management. That's how I got into this industry. Before joining Casa Silencio, I was with RIU Hotels and Resorts, which has a global presence, and my role there focused on marketing and advertising in the US.
After returning to Mexico, I connected with the owners of Casa Silencio through mutual acquaintances who believed I could be a good fit for the general manager role. This project excited me because I joined when the hotel was still under construction, so I've been there from the beginning, and we started everything from scratch.
The property is about one hour from Oaxaca City in a remote area. This was a bit of a challenge because the owners were worried about finding enough employees. To address this, we decided to engage the local community to work with us, and I took charge of training them, as many of them didn't have any experience in hospitality.
This was a significant moment in my career, but the hotel rapidly expanded as time passed and the details of those early days are now a blur. But it's because of our dedicated team that we were able to make things work.
How big is the team at present?
We have 40 employees. So for a boutique hotel of six rooms, it’s a huge number.
From conception to opening, how long was that process and what was it like?
I joined the company in 2019 to help develop the project. At that point, we only had the idea and architectural plans. But we needed a clearer concept of managing Casa Silencio, what services to offer, and what kind of experiences we wanted to provide. This was when my team and I began crafting everything from scratch—from designing the rooms and amenities to planning extra activities like mezcal tastings and determining how we would present it all to our clients.
Following the pandemic, we opened our doors in September 2021 after about 1.5 years of intense work on the project. Dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 was demanding, as people were staying home and reluctant to work.
But we overcame this challenge due to our unique concept. I've yet to come across anything similar anywhere in Mexico. And the level of service we provide results in amazing reviews. The positive feedback motivates us to try harder and make everything as perfect as possible.
With many beautiful hotels in Mexico, what, in your opinion, makes Casa Silencio unique?
Three key elements define Casa Silencio. Firstly, there's the architecture and design. Secondly, our service offering. Lastly, the gastronomic experience we provide. All of these things set us apart.
The location is the cherry on top. Situated in a secluded area that's not too distant, the hotel offers the perfect opportunity to completely disconnect. It's a place where you can truly unwind and escape.
But it's the overall concept that brings people here, and right now, we're getting returning guests, and we haven't even been open for too long. For us, that's incredible.
How would you describe the image the brand represents?
It's like a mystical creature. I struggle to find the right words, but it embodies mysticism, fantasy, and darkness—all in the best possible sense. The atmosphere is super cool and exudes a certain allure.
Everyone who comes here or works here is left in awe. I would sum it up as a genuine 'wow' factor. It's also surprising; you want to see more and more and discover each and every aspect of the place. It's very magical.
Could you describe some of the highlights of the food and drink experiences at Casa Silencio?
We serve a five-course tasting menu for dinner designed by Chef Daniel Robles Sumano, which is a great highlight because, typically, it's à la carte. The menu is a fusion of authentic Oaxacan cuisine with the chef's interpretation of what Oaxaca represents in a dish.
While experiencing the five courses, you will pair them with our mixologist's creations, crafted by Jonathan Carmona. He has developed fantastic drinks to complement the food, which provide a unique perspective on mezcal flavours compared to what you might be accustomed to in other places.
During the mezcal tastings, we pair the mezcal with five 'bites' designed by one of the most recognised chefs in Oaxaca, Chef Rodolfo Castellanos. You'll take a sip of mezcal and pair it with these signature bites. This allows you to understand that you can enjoy different flavours with mezcal. This concept is a big hit and is loved by everyone. No one does this kind of tasting like us.
If you could pick one drink from the menu that you love, what would it be?
Red Rooster, which is our signature cocktail and welcome drink. Made with red pepper, Ancho Reyes Rojo, and lime juice, we rim the glass with chilli powder to give it a spicy yet delightful flavour.
Whenever I travel, I focus on the food; I'm a foodie. And with that, I believe if we don't know about our clients' food preferences before their arrival, we won't be able to serve them well. To achieve this, before they arrive, we engage with them through email in a friendly manner, asking them to provide us with as much information as possible to ensure they feel cared for. We create customised menus for those with allergies, pescatarians, vegans, or vegetarians, so everyone can enjoy the food and drink here.
How long do you recommend guests stay at the hotel?
Usually, guests stay for one or two nights, but to be honest, as they leave, they often express the desire to extend their stay. Personally, I would recommend staying for two or three nights. The hotel offers many activities both on-site and in the surrounding areas. We provide mixology classes, cooking classes with the chef, yoga sessions, and guided hikes to the mountains that have cave paintings. Additionally, we offer in-room massages.
Beyond the hotel, you have the option to explore places like Hierve el Agua or markets which are known for textiles. Our location is conveniently only 20 to 30 minutes from Hierve el Agua, whereas it takes about 1.5 hours from Oaxaca City. Many visitors to Oaxaca tend to limit themselves to the city and its touristy spots, missing out on the gems elsewhere.
Sustainability at Casa Silencio is huge. Could you talk more about that?
We operate solely on solar panels for our energy needs at Casa Silencio. Despite the challenge of cloudy days, we have enough solar panels to sustain the hotel's energy demand. Rainwater is collected for garden irrigation, minimising wastage. And recycling is a priority, with 95% of our waste recycled. We also don't use plastic, just glass.
Sheep and cows are roaming around, helping to maintain the surroundings, while our pesticide-free farm supplies herbs, vegetables, and fruits. All food waste is composted, and in the mezcal distillery, production waste is fully recycled—an innovative process that earned us an award.
Our approach sets an example in Oaxaca, reusing all resources. And by providing employment to the community and using their resources, we give back and sustain the local economy. We always look to sourcing locally; we turn to Oaxaca City if anything is unavailable nearby. But our focus is on community collaboration for a sustainable approach.
What are your favourite areas of the hotel?
That's a difficult choice, but I love the library. We have a small library with a chimney, making it a unique place to relax, enjoy, and have a shot of mezcal. With the fire at night, the ambience is amazing.
Also, the plunge pool.