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New proposal brings Mérida’s Carnaval back to the Centro

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

Experts and a handful of politicians have suggested bringing Mérida’s Carnaval back to the city center. 

But the plan would not see Carnaval return to Paseo de Montejo. Rather, they would move it to Parque de la Plancha.

The proposal was presented by architect Marco Tulio Peraza and urban planner Jorge Bolio Osés at a policy forum organized by Grupo Megamedia. 

“With the move so far out of town, the event does not even feel like Mérida’s Carnaval at all. It resembles any other big festivity,” said Tulio Peraza. 

The decision to move the festivities to the Xmatkuil fairgrounds was made in 2013 by Mayor Renán Barrera Concha and the Carnaval’s organizing committee. 

“The residents of Mérida should have a say in this. It seems like these kinds of decisions have more to do with business than with what people want,” said two-time Mérida Mayor, Ana Rosa Payán Cervera.

Earlier: Mexico’s top 5 cities for Carnaval

Popular opinion in Mérida has been 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. 

“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. 

A woman with feathered headdress rides atop a float during Merida’s 2012 Carnaval, which was downtown. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Mayoral candidate Nelly Ortiz Vásquez said she will bring the Carnaval back to the Paseo de Montejo if she wins the election. She appears on the Nueva Alianza ticket.

Carnaval celebrations were canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans for 2022 Carnaval have not been announced.

Yearly festivities are held in February or March, depending on where Easter falls on the calendar.

The first Carnival in Merida 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.

It also became increasingly commercialized when floats were sponsored by corporate brands. One year, models tossed Whoppers to an appreciative crowd which shouted “Burger King! Burger King!”

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