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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Communities across Yucatán begin to promote Hanal Pixán festivities

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As Hanal Pixán draws near, communities across the Peninsula have begun to promote their upcoming festivities.

Hanal Pixán is more than a holiday. For folks in Yucatán, it’s a time to remember those “que se nos adelantaron.” Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

For a primer on the difference between Hanal Pixán and Día de Muertos, check out our feature “Día de Muertos or Hanal Pixán: What’s the difference?”

Historically, Hanal Pixán has been mainly a modest affair, with families coming together in the home of a patriarch or matriarch to share memories of loved ones who have passed away and eat mucbipollo, of course.

Families typically adorn altars with photos of their deceased loved ones and fill them with their favorite foods and sometimes even their favorite vices, such as cigarettes and liquor. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But as Hanal Pixán celebrations have begun to explode in popularity, so have the number of festivals hosted by different cities and towns.

In recent years, Mérida’s Paseo de las Ánimas procession has attracted upwards of 50,000 attendees. Photo: Courtesy
For 2023, Ticul is planning six full days of cultural events to attract visitors. Photo: Courtesy

Now, towns, including Ticul and Motul, have also announced multi-day events featuring processions, costume contests, altar exhibits, and lots of food. 

Posters promoting scheduled cultural events for Hanal Pixán in Motul and Cozumel. Photo: Courtesy

Resort towns like Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are also expanding their cultural offerings to prove there is more to them than just beaches and partying.

Earlier: The importance of food for the dead during Hanal Pixan 

“When people think of Cozumel, their mind goes right to cruise ships, margaritas, and beaches. We are, of course, proud of our tourism industry, but the island is a thriving community full of life and tradition,” says Cozumel’s Mayor, Juanita Alonso.

Hanal Pixán / Dia de Muertos decorations in Playa del Carmen’s town square. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

However, some feel that the over-commercialization of Hanal Pixán has begun to go too far, with even communities like Pomuch being targeted by tour companies looking to bring tourists in to observe customs like the Choo Ba’ak — a ritual that involves exhuming the bones of the dead to place them on an altar. 

Women clean the bones and skulls of their deceased relatives from the Uitz Poot family at the cemetery of Pomuch. Photo: Bénédicte Desrus / Yucatán Magazine

“We get that our traditions seem exotic to outsiders, which makes them curious, but this is a special time of year for us. We don’t need busloads of tourists coming to gawk at our dead,” said a Pomuch local named Guadalupe.

There is also the concern that the over-commercialization of Hanal Pixán threatens to alter its traditional practices.

For example, in several communities, activities now include screenings of the Disney Pixar film Coco, which deals with themes surrounding the Day of the Dead. 

That said, people in Yucatán are fairly open to having visitors share in the fun. Be respectful and moderate the volume of your voice, especially during processions or near altars.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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