Paseo de las Ánimas will be high point of festival

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Crowds were double in size this year in Mérida's Paseo de las Ánimas. Photo: City of Mérida
A previous Paseo de las Ánimas drew 40,000 people, double the crowd of the previous year. Photo: City of Mérida

Mérida, Yucatán — The Paseo de las Ánimas returns on Friday, Oct. 28, bringing tens of thousands of people to the streets.

It is the high point of a weeklong program, all leading up to Hanal Pixán, the local variant of Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Ánimas festival begins on Monday, Oct. 24. with a Vaquería dance performance at the Municipal Palace (entire schedule below).

Once a year, the city shuts down streets south of the Plaza Grande for this grand public procession. The mega event was started by the city in 2008 and has grown dramatically since.

The Paseo de las Ánimas, or Passage of the Souls, is a festive, jubilant celebration, and not for the faint of heart. On Friday night, tens of thousands of people are expected to gather between the General Cemetery and the San Juan Arch. Last year’s Paseo de las Ánimas attracted 40,000 people, double the number in 2014, according to official figures.

Click for a map and details.
Click for a map and details.

As always, the flow of the crowd heads from flamboyantly gothic Cementerio General, where there are guided tours and a Maya ceremony. At 8 p.m., everyone heads down past La Ermita park and to the San Juan Arch. (See map)

This year, bleachers are promised for onlookers who don’t want to walk in the procession, which begins at 8, two hours after activities begin in the cemetery.

{ Related: Previous story on the procession here. }

The procession of souls is made up of children and youths dressed in typical Yucatecan dress and Day-of-the-Dead face paint. The ceremonial parade is enjoyed by families while observing the traditional altar exhibits (see below).

Along the route there will also be traditional pre-Hispanic music, including sets from musician Pedro Hernández, plus folk dancing and jugglers, on stages at the Cementerio General, La Ermita park and the San Juan Arch.

The city promises fun for all ages, and an engaging introduction to newcomers interested in how Mérida celebrates their dearly departed.

Dancers celebrate Vaquería de Ánimas.
Dancers celebrate Vaquería de Ánimas.

A weeklong festival

9 to 10 p.m.

Vaquería of Souls by the City Ballet (see story about 2015 performance)
Palacio Municipal, Calle 62 between 63 and 61, Centro.

8 p.m.

Photo Exhibit Opens
Olimpo Cultural Center, Calle 62 by 61 center, next to the Municipal Palace.

8 p.m.

Mayan X-MEN ceremony
General Cemetery Street 89 letter A number 538 by 66 Centro

8:30 p.m.
Video Mapping (sound and light show) “Conq. to the Memory of Tanicho”
Casa de Montejo, Calle 63 between 62 and 60, Centro

9 p.m.
Historic Cemetery tour with CicloTurixes (by bike)
Cementerio General, Calle 89 at 66, Centro

6 p.m.

Day of the Dead in Mexico
Centro Municipal de Danza, Fracc. Yucalpetén

9 p.m.
Serenade of the Souls performance
Santa Lucia Park, Calle 60 at55, Centro

Paseo de las Ánimas
(See top of page)

8 p.m.

A special Noche Mexicana
Remate de Paseo de Montejo

9 p.m.
Piedras Sagradas String Quintet, “Ánimas Night of Reminiscences”
Cathedral of San Idelfonso, Plaza Grande

11 a.m.

Merida en Domingo, puppet show “Franky y sus calaveras” and regional theater performance by “La Revista.”
Palacio Municipal, Calle 62 between 61 and 63, Centro

A traditional altar of Hanal Pixán.
A traditional altar of Hanal Pixán.

Hanal Pixán

With deep Hispanic roots, the celebration of Hanal Pixán takes place across all of Yucatán between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.

Once a private, at-home tradition, Hanal Pixán has been promoted by the city, encouraging citizens to build altars in public spaces.

Across Mexico, citizens remember their dead in their own way, filling their homes with the scent of the Cempasuchil flower, or Mexican marigold, which adorns their altars.

The Mayan and Aztec view of death — as merely a transitional stage in the universe — started long before the Spanish brought Christianity to Mesoamerica. Both cultures have developed rituals to help their dearly departed on their journey to the underworld.

Although the Spanish tried to force the Catholic observance of the All Souls’ Day, natives found a way to continue their ancient traditions by transforming it into what is now the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos. Meanwhile, on the Yucatán Peninsula, the Mayan variation was, and remains, Hanal Pixán.

For Hanal Pixán or “food for the souls,” homes are adorned with an altar covered in offerings to welcome the souls of their dead relatives who come to see the living. It is believed that the dead come back to their home to be with their loved ones, to eat their favorite foods and to rest from the long journey, and eventually go back to their mythical resting place again.

Schools hold contests for the best altars. In the countryside, altars are set up on the front porch or patio of many homes, or just about anywhere they can fit a table.

Oct. 31 is dedicated to the children’s souls, Nov. 1 is dedicated to the adults’ souls and Nov. 2. is “Faithful Death Day” (for both children and adults).

On the final day of this celebration, called Biix, a mass in honor of the dead wishes them a safe trip back to their resting place. A path lit with candles guides them on their way.

In Mayan tradition people die three deaths: when the body ceases to function, when the body is lowered into the ground, and finally, when there is no one left alive to remember us.

Photo: Comey
Photo: Comey

Altar of Hanal Pixán in the Mayan tradition

Here are the items that make up a traditional altar:

  • Black or white candle made of wax
  • Candle stick holder’s and incense burner made of clay.
  • A tablecloth embroidered with white, black or purple flowers
  • Teresita, Virginia, X-tees and X-pujuk flowers
  • Jicara (A special bowl of water)
  • Ruda (medicinal plant Ruta graveolens)
  • Corn grains
  • A photograph of the deceased
  • A crucifix
  • Ash on the floor next to the altar
  • Ornaments made of tree bark

  • Chocolate
  • Sweet bread, pan de muerto
  • Atole nuevo, a traditional hot beverage made of typical corn
  • Elote tierno y elote sancochado, young corn and boiled corn
  • Pib, a special baked tamal
  • Cigarettes and liquor, according to the former habits of the deceased; or toys if this is a child’s altar
  • Sweets of pumpkin seed, if a child’s altar

Food and candies on the altar


  • Relleno blanco o negro (turkey stuffed with ground meat with different spices)
  • Escabeche de pollo
  • Frijol con puerco
  • Cochinita pibil
  • Puchero (stew)
  • Handmade tortillas made of corn
  • Xe’ek’ (mix fruit salad made of orange, tangerine and jicama
Candies (candy markets will have popped up to meet the need):

  • Yuca (Yucca, cassava or tapioca root)
  • Coconut
  • Papaya
  • Sweet potato
  • Marzipan
  • Pumpkin
  • Seasonal fruits

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