Mérida’s Carnaval to make a huge comeback in 2023 with citywide celebrations

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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. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Graphic promotes Mérida’s 2023 slate of Carnaval events. Photo: Courtesy

After nearly three years, Carnaval is slated to return to Mérida in 2023.

The upcoming Carnaval will not be limited to Xmatkuil’s fairgrounds. Celebrations are planned across the city, including the Centro neighborhoods of San Juan, La Ermita, and San Sebastián.

“We are so excited that Carnaval will be finally coming back in 2023. Be assured, it’s going to be the best ever,” said a statement from Mérida’s Carnaval committee

Celebrations are scheduled to kick off early, on Sept. 7, 2022, with a grand spectacle featuring costumes and decorations that went unused in past years due to cancellations forced by the pandemic.

A woman with a feathered headdress rides atop a float during Merida’s 2012 Carnaval, back when the celebration was held downtown. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

This first festival will take place in Mérida’s Plaza Grande, during which the theme of Mérida’s 2023 Carnaval will be announced. 

During the remainder of September, the city will host several concerts, kids’ activities, and carnaval-themed versions of the biciruta, and traditional vaquería.

From Oct. 12 to 15, Mérida will host an international Carnaval meetup with participants from several other Mexican states, as well as Bolivia, Colombia, and Spain.

The dates for the Carnaval’s main events and parades are yet to be announced, but if precedent stands will take place either late February or early March. 

Mérida’s last Carnaval was celebrated in February 2020, just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Yucatán. 

Earlier: Who remembers when Mérida celebrated Carnaval in the Centro?

Regarding a possible return of Carnaval celebrations to Mérida’s Centro or Paseo de Montejo, opinions are split. 

People who object to bringing the Carnaval back to the city cite concerns regarding traffic headaches, excessive garbage, and noise. Hotels and shops on the boulevard say their business is practically on pause during the parade. 

But since the move to Xmatkuil, Carnaval’s attendance has shrunk considerably. That travel time to the fairgrounds is one impediment. The fairgrounds also lack an authentic community atmosphere. 

A packed Paseo de Montejo during Sunday’s traditional parade in 2011. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“It’s just not the same, what is even the point? Instead of having Carnaval, it is more like we now have the Xmatkuil state fair twice a year. It’s so lame,” opined Mérida resident Silvia Muñoz on Facebook.

“We are not letting our guard down against COVID-19 and will be taking all precautions, but the city really needs this celebration. These past few years have been so hard on us all, it’s time for a comeback,” said a statement from Mérida’s Carnaval committee.

Attempts at the scaled-back and online versions of the Carnaval were planned in 2021 but ultimately canceled as well. 

Also likely making a return is Progreso’s Carnaval, which in recent years has been growing in popularity. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The first Carnaval in Mérida is thought to have been celebrated as early as 1578. 

In the 20th century, the event ballooned in popularity with the inclusion of parades featuring decorative floats and large groups of scantily clad dancers.

For more information on upcoming Carnaval events, visit Mérida’s official website.

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