Mérida, Yucatán — North of the border Halloween, Mexico’s Day of the Dead and Yucatán’s Hanal Pixan all happily collide this weekend.
The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is anything but a dour affair. Celebrated Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 throughout Mexico, in Yucatán it’s called Hanal Pixán, a Mayan saying that means “food of the souls.”
Historically held at the beginning of summer, Day of the Dead was moved to coincide with the Christian festivals following the Spanish colonization of Mexico in the 16th Century. On Oct. 31, All Hallows Eve, children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos to visit. Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits are invoked and invited. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives.
Several streets are closed Saturday for The Paseo de las Ánimas, a newer tradition which has caught fire. Last year, 40,000 people took to the streets for this ceremonial public parade and festival, double the number who took part the year before.
The “Passage of the Souls” was started in 2008 by the city government as a way to add to the already popular traditional exhibit of altars in various parts of town. It runs from the cemetery to San Juan park, with music and activities planted throughout.
Along the route there will also be folkloric music from three stages located at the Cementerio General (Calle 81a and 90), La Ermita de Santa Isabel plaza, and the Arco de San Juan. It all begins at 6 p.m.
Look for some of the region’s culinary treasures to surface this weekend.
One of the most typical Hanal Pixán recipes in Yucatán—and a cherished favorite for many—is mukbil pollo (or mucbilpollo), or “buried chicken,” essentially an oversize chicken tamale encased in corn dough, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground pit.
It is often paired with xec, a tangy fruit salad of jicama, orange, and mandarin orange, and a hot, thick beverage called atole, which is made from corn flour. Other seasonal treats include sweetened egg bread called pan de muerto, which is embellished with a crossbones motif.