Are you trying to decide where to spend Día de Muertos in the Yucatan Peninsula this year? I hope this will help!
Día de muertos is probably one of the most famous symbols of Mexico and it takes place on November 1st. This day that is seen as Halloween by most European or North American people, maybe due to the date being so close to this other holiday, in Mexico still has a deep spiritual meaning. All the major cities in Mexico organise a week-long celebration, with several events and a big parade, the biggest and most famous of which takes place in Mexico City.
This parade, called pasaje de las almas, or passage of the souls, consist of people walking flowers and candles, and,according to the tradition, it symbolises the arrival of the souls who return to Earth at this time of year to visit their families and friends. Moreover, families set up some stalls with food and drinks for the souls of the people they loved. If you haven’t watched Coco yet, I really suggest you do it!
In the Yucatan, this tradition gets mixed up with some Mayan tradition. While more touristy cities on the Riviera Maya organise big celebrations, I would not recommend spending this day in one of them. For a more authentic experience, we originally planned to spend Día de muertos in Merida. However, keep in mind that the parade for the souls’ passage, which is the most important and characteristic event of this week, doesn’t takes place on October 31st or November 1st, but a few days earlier. For example, in 2017, this took place on October 27th. So, keep this in mind when planning your visit.
We discovered about the parade being a few days earlier only after arriving in Valladolid, so we ended up watching it there, and I am so glad it went this way! Valladolid is a small town and, for this reason, it felt more traditional and we felt more part of this celebration, which was exactly what we were looking for.
In the morning, we went to visit Cenote Zaci, the one in the middle of the town, where we could already see people setting up food and artisan stalls, and we could look through some of the altars that had already been prepared. It was very interesting walking around and talk to families to learn more about this tradition. People were very happy to talk to us and to get pictures of them or of their altars taken. It felt like there was a competition for who had the best one!
In the evening, at around 8pm, we went to see the parade or Festival de Pixanes, as they call it here. Streets were full of people, almost everybody taking part in the parade or simply walking along. Local people were wearing the traditional costumes and skull make-up. Although the parade was very small, there were also a few floats and, again, people were more than happy to stop for you if they saw you trying to take a picture. The parade lasted approximately one hour, and it moved from the main square of the town to Cenote Zaci. Here is where the real night long celebration began!
First, we watched a dog costume competition and, yes!, it was as cute as it sounds. After that, we watched the traditional Mayan dance, jarana. The dance and the music were very nice and they went on for a while, even after we left. In the different stalls, you could try some local food. The one I tried was called marquesita, something that looks like a crepe filled with cheese, but tastes more like an ice-cream cone. Definitely a weird taste!
Celebrations went on all night, not only in the cenote, but also in the town centre, were there were a lot of street artists performing and fireworks that went off from behind the cathedral.
The next day we moved on to Merida, where we found out celebrations were still on until November 2nd. While in the main markets it was still possible to see the family altars, in bars and clubs you could take part to Halloween parties. In the main square as well, there were groups playing traditional music and still a few people wearing the traditional make up.