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Sunday, December 4, 2022

What are those creepy statues on the side of the highway? It’s Yucatán’s Carnaval Graveyard, we think.

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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.
Just a plot of land on the side of the road? Or could it be something much more interesting? Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

On the right hand of the highway from Mérida to Izamal sits a rather odd sight. 

Just a plot of land on the side of the road? Or could it be something much more interesting? Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Peering beyond the overgrown bush of a large fenced-off lot are several gigantic colorful fantasy figures. Among them, an elephant, a dinosaur, and a lady who could perhaps be a mermaid. 

At first glance, the scene is reminiscent of a creepy theme park, or perhaps something out of an ‘80s horror movie. 

A large smiling face wearing a green mask peers through the brush. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But upon further inspection, the figures of exotic animals and scantily clad men and women wearing masks remind one of a familiar celebration – Carnaval. 

A section of an old Carnaval float features a Mayan princess with her arms stretched out and a man blowing her a kiss. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The rails protruding from these figures lay credence to the idea that these are in fact discarded Carnaval floats from years past. 

A Carnaval float complete with rails fixed to its top in the form of a great tusked elephant. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A quick internet search for terms such as “elephant Carnaval float Mérida,” seems to support this suspicion.

The photos found online certainly could be of our wooden pachyderm friend. Photo: Courtesy

In an attempt to try to figure out what exactly it was I was looking at, I yelled out ¿Buenas, esta alguien por ahí? – Hello, is anyone around? But to no avail. 

In the distance, it is possible to spot yet more floats sporting the image of a figure resembling the Roman god Triton, and some sort of Octopus person — perhaps “Ursula” from the Little Mermaid. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Neither could I find a phone number, name, or another clue out in front of what I was now dubbing in my own head as an abandoned Carnival graveyard.

Nobody I asked could tell me exactly how long these figures had been sitting in this lot, but everyone who recalled seeing them insisted that they must have been there for at least a handful of years. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

It occurred to me that these Carnaval floats were perhaps placed in this lot for storage. But if this was indeed the case, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that they have remained there for longer than expected, as two Carnavals have come and gone without any parades.  

Though several of the floats appear to be in remarkably good shape, others seem to have fallen to pieces. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

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.

Photo of a Carnaval float in Mérida in 1896 published by “El Mundo.” Photo: Courtesy
Yearly festivities are held in Mérida in February or March, depending on where Easter falls on the calendar. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

If you happen to know the story behind this Carnaval graveyard, please drop us a line on Instagram @YucatanGram. We are just itching to get to the bottom of this.  

Even more discarded floats seem to be found further back into the property, but without being granted access, I was not able to get a direct line of sight. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
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