Under the cloak of night, the shaman asks permission for the souls to go out to the earthly world. The atmosphere is enveloped by the smell of incense, the mystery that death entails, and after the ceremony, the spirits emerge.
In General Cemetery, the souls of several children materialize and share the fire of their candles carried by Mérida’s mayor, Renán Barrera Concha, and the president of the municipal social services agency, Diana Castillo Laviada. They all wear the Yucatecan regional costume, and their faces are painted like skulls.
This is where and how the Paseo de las Ánimas begins. The candlelight procession takes hundreds of similarly costumed people through the streets for several miles, ending at Parque San Juan. The spectacle attracts tens of thousands of onlookers, some flying in from long distances.
Since 2012, the Paseo de las Ánimas has been one of the most prominent Ánimas Festival events, coordinating with Mexico’s Day of the Dead, but locally called Hanal Pixán, and celebrated somewhat differently.
The guests of honor were the spirits of those who had departed this world. From Parque San Juan to La Ermita, almost a hundred altars from schools, associations and families of the area were placed along the road.
It was at 6 in the afternoon when the event began with the presentation of the altars and the sale of snacks, from tamales to pibes, and not forgetting rice pudding, bread of the dead (pan de muerto), hot chocolate, coconut and cocoa pozol, flans, and many other traditional foods and others not so much, but popular, such as chicharrones, esquites, churros and the inevitable marquesitas.
One thing new this edition: A gastronomic corridor was created from Calle 77 to Parque San Sebastián Park, which also offered a variety of treats. Also along the way were several stages where music and dance numbers were presented.
This tradition has its roots in more recent times. Once considered a family affair, Hanal Pixan began its era as a public attraction in 2012 as an exhibition of altars in La Ermita. Over the years, it grew until it became the Festival de las Ánimas or Festival of the Souls. This procession is the highlight of the festival.
The festival grew from 5,000 attendees in its first year to around 70,000 in 2019. The Pandemic forced a pause until 2022. This year, observers commented that the event finally feels as robust as it once was.
On Saturday, the Parade of the Catrinas will start at 8 p.m., from the Monumento a la Patria to the Remate of the Paseo de Montejo.
Sunday brings the sixth edition of the Mucbipollo Fair from 8 in the morning to 8 at night in Parque San Sebastián.
On Monday, a monumental 14-meter-high altar will be erected at the Plaza Grande.
In addition to these events, guided tours of the General Cemetery will be offered throughout the week, in English and Spanish, at 6 and 8 p.m.