Celebrations for Yucatán’s Day of the Dead: 3-level altar in the Plaza Grande for Hanal Pixan

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The Festival de las Ánimas kicked off Tuesday with an extra-large Day of the Dead altar in the Plaza Grande.

The altar, around 14 meters long, is a three-tiered display crowned by a 200-year-old wooden cross originally from Hoctún.

This kind of altar is known as “mixed altar” as it honors both children and adults alike. Photo: Valerio Caamal

Members of Mérida’s city hall inaugurated the event, including Irving Berlín Villafaña, director of culture.

Berlín Villafaña explained that the three levels of the altar represent an intermingled conception of the indigenous and Christian, the first level being the underworld, the middle level the earth, and the third the sky.

Ánimas joined the inauguration, wearing the traditional attire of the state: huipiles and guayaberas. Photo: Valerio Caamal

“Throughout the country, the Day of the Dead has been recognized as a cultural heritage of humanity since 2003. This was done by Unesco thinking that Mexico has an indigenous tradition. But Day of the Dead is a Christian tradition mounted on the indigenous tradition. This ceremony is the fusion of both components.”

It is a mixed altar, honoring both deceased adults and children. For this reason, it is decorated with both black and colored candles, as well as toys. It displays multiple vases with traditional marigolds — cempasúchil flowers, and palms, as well as photos, traditional dishes, and memories from the departed.

This is the first large, public event related to Day of the Dead since the beginning of the pandemic. Photo: Valerio Caamal

At the end of the event, Berlin Villafaña said that, in the case of Yucatán, the Day of the Dead is lived with food, colors, and meanings different from the rest of the country.

In Yucatán Magazine: Cemeteries and festivities will be open this year for Hanal Pixan celebrations

“The Day of the Dead in Yucatan is a return of those who have never left because for the Mayan world death is not the disappearance of the person, but the return to other worlds or places (…) In the Mayan tradition the dead return to the places where they were happy: they return to their food, they return to their toys, they return to their family… and we the living receive with joy those who left.”

The altar will be on display until November 2nd. Photo: Valerio Caamal

The Festival de las Ánimas also includes a Night of Catrinas on Saturday the 31st, as well as talks on the elaboration of the mucbipollo and the projection of a video on the departure of the souls from the cemetery.

The altar will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be guided tours at 9:30 in the morning and at 4 in the afternoon. The 9:30 a.m. tour will be in English.

In Yucatán Magazine: Día de Los Muertos or Hanal Pixán: What’s the difference?

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