Mérida, Yucatán — A yearly tradition for 10 years now, thousands of souls took a long, candlelit walk from the General Cemetery to the San Juan Arch.
Marking Hanal Pixán, the local version of the Day of the Dead, the Paseo de las Ánimas event began at sundown on Wednesday.
The spectacle overtook the streets leading from point to point. Children led the way, passing hundreds of traditional altars on the side of the road, which was closed to traffic.
Thousands of people, locals and tourists alike, stopped at stations to have their faces painted with the skull-like catrinas. Many adorned folkloric costumes, with women wearing embroidered hipiles and men with the familiar white guayabera and hat.
Hanal Pixán was a family affair until several years ago when the city seized on it as a tourist attraction. The name of the holiday is Mayan for “meal for the souls,” and it merges indigenous and Catholic traditions.
“I used to do it with my grandchildren,” said local resident Pastora Marrufo who set up an altar outside her home, in remembrance of her husband. “Now more people come. Before there were only families, the tradition has not died and is still the same, with more elegance.”
The Paseo de las Ánimas — which now makes national headlines – is a four-kilometer route, running about 20 blocks.
It began in 2008 with about only 200 people and 10 altars. This year, over 60,000 people participated, about 4,000 more than last year, and nearly 400 altars, said Mayor Renán Barrera.
While Halloween is observed by about a third of the country, the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is more commonly celebrated Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 throughout Mexico.
Historically held at the beginning of summer, Day of the Dead was moved to coincide with the Christian festivals following the Spanish colonization of Mexico in the 16th Century.
Every Oct. 31, All Hallows Eve, children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos to visit. Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits are invoked and invited. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives.
One of the most typical Hanal Pixán dishes in Yucatán—and a cherished favorite for many—is mukbil pollo (ormucbilpollo), or “buried chicken,” essentially an oversize chicken tamale encased in corn dough, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground pit.
With information from El Financiero