The traditional flavors and aromas at the Mega Altar de Muertos at Plaza Grande

a man with face paint and lighted candles
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

To promote the tradition of the Dead Souls, the Culture Department of the Mérida City Hall set up an altar in the Plaza Grande, which included praying women, and the head of the department, Irving Berlín Villafaña, said that he is accustomed to setting it up with great respect.

“In my house when my grandmother made the coffee and cried when she put it on, she would tell us: this coffee is not for you, little boy, it is for grandfather,” he said.

Raúl Olán Medina, head of the Operational sub-directorate of the Special Events Culture Directorate, explained that the altar included a green cross known among the Maya as the Santa Cruz, which represents the yaxché or sacred tree, and also the water, which should not be missing since from October 31 to November 30 the pixanes, the souls of loved ones, visit us.

He said that salt, masa, and pozole balls should also be placed. “In the Mayan cosmogony we were created with the white dough the bones were made and the yellow and red dough the skin was made,” he said.

He indicated that the flowers are the joy and with the incense the prayers are elevated; the pixanes are ethereal, all they consume are the essences, with the incense we give them an embrace so that they are in the homes.

The other elements are the viands such as mucbilpollos, escabeche, black and white stuffing and puchero and fruits.

“In the entrance of the house a table is usually placed and this is for the soul alone, and for the Mayan people it helps those who have less, since all their relatives have already died. In some houses there are chuyumes, which are roots and three threads, and those who committed suicide have their offering placed on these utensils and water is hung on them,” he explained.

In the houses they do not put altars, they put offering tables, they light candles, flowers, the first food is chocolate with bread and they are called to come to breakfast.

“Then, the family consumes the food and also at lunch and dinner and they are told they can sleep. There are places where they only celebrate it on the 1st and 2nd, there are those who until the 8th, but in the Mayan culture they are until the 30th of the month,” he added.

“Those who died this year are not given mucbilpollos, but tamales, because they are the ones who will bring the mucbilpollos for all those who will return to the underworld.”

For his part, Berlín Villafaña pointed out that this tradition has been combined with others. There is the case of the cempasúchil flowers, which are not from this area.

He explained that this intimate identity is placed in a public space, but it shows its own elements because it is not Argentinean, Chinese or from another culture.

Meanwhile, José Luis Martínez Semerena, director of Economic Development and Tourism of the Mérida City Hall, clarified that it is a false perception when they say that Mexicans laugh at death, and it is the opposite, they have so much respect for their deceased, “because they know they will have them visiting and they have to be attended to as they deserve”.

The prayers were accompanied by a rosary, a religious act that is accompanied by the fragrant incense. There were also people made up as animas and a tortilla maker, who made jacketed eggs and also handed out pieces of mucbilpollo.

The altar will be open until Wednesday, November 2, from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

TYT Newsroom