Visualise the opening scene of James Bond’s Spectre film and you will get a taste for Dia de los Muertos or ‘Day of the Dead’ in Mexico. On first viewing, one would assume it is a Halloween based ceremony, however being in Merida and experiencing their version proved to us that this celebration is far removed from the pagan festival of Halloween. Hanal Pixan is the name given to the celebrations in Yucatan and the term translates to “food of the souls” in the Mayan language. In this region, food plays an important role and traditional dishes are prepared for the spirits who are thought to return on this day and visit their families. We found that the event in Merida was less about parading through the streets and dressing up and more about honoring and respecting family members and friends that were deceased. The animated Disney film Coco gives a great depiction of the true meaning of Day of the Dead and watching it got us into the spirit (pardon the pun!) Families in Yucatan dress in their traditional outfits instead of dressing up as skeletons and they create ‘ofrendas’ which are usually outside their house or business. These are tables that are decorated like altars and contain pictures of their loved ones along with both food and drink that their family members were fond of. Both the ofrendas and the graves are also richly decorated with marigold flowers candles and insence. We loved the idea of remembrance in this way and we both found ourselves reflecting on the family members who have passed in our own lives.
Whilst in Merida, we also got some great authentic mexican food. Corn is a staple of their diet and most of the tortillas and tacos were all corn-based unlike the flour tortillas we were used to. Some local dishes included ‘Cerdo Ahumado’ and ‘Poc Chuc.’ These traditional dishes are both made with pork and were full of flavour and easy on the pockets!
- Visit Merida for Hanal Pixan
- Order some Poc Chuc – Pork roasted on a BBQ
- Try a Taco with Cerdo Ahumado – Smoked Pork