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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Who remembers when Mérida celebrated Carnaval in the Centro?

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Mark Callum’s video is a compilation of clips from 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2013, when Mérida’s Carnaval attracted thousands to the Centro.

It’s been eight years since downtown Mérida celebrated Carnaval. Anyone who has moved to Mérida after 2013 probably hasn’t seen it.

Even before Carnaval 2021 was canceled — it would have been held last week — Mérida’s celebrations had been moved to the fairgrounds south of the city.

Mark Callum, who for 31 years worked in production at the British Broadcasting Corp., remembers how it used to be. And he applied his professional skills to compile video clips from between 2007 and 2013, the last year Carnaval wound its way along the Paseo de Montejo.

Mérida’s Carnival floats take one last trip down the Paseo de Montejo in 2013. Resident Mark Callum compiled years of video to create an affectionate look back at how the city once celebrated. Photo: From a video by Mark Callum

Opinion is still divided on whether the move was positive for the city. Business leaders found the parade bad for business and drove Carnaval to the fairgrounds. But Callum definitely misses the old days.

“I have so many amazing memories of the sheer joy of all ages and social classes mixing together in peace and enjoying the free fun,” Callum said. “Unlike other carnivals, no stabbings, no murders, police patrolled efficiently and there was a unique joie de vivre. Since we have no Carnaval this year I thought it was time to let those who never experienced it see it for themselves!”

Related: Why the Carnaval isn’t in the Centro anymore

“It’s an affectionate look back,” says Callum, who took seven days to transfer and edit the videos and mix the sound. “A labor of love inspired by the happy memories.”

What is Carnaval?

Carnaval (Spanish for “carnival,” of course) is celebrated each spring in different destinations throughout Latin America. Its dates align with the Christian calendar. It is held the week before Ash Wednesday (miercoles de cenizas) which marks the beginning of Lent, the period of austerity before Easter. Carnaval festivities reach a peak the day before, which may be referred to as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Martes de Carnaval.

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