Dia de Muertos and a Mayan Village

Up early on Sunday to go on a trip to a Mayan household and village celebrating the Day of the Dead, Dia de Muertos, where they get together to celebrate and remember friends and family who have died.  The trip only runs once a year (obviously J) and has only been run once before, so we’re lucky to have found it through our language school.  We pile into a small fleet of minibuses and drive for two hours or so into the interior of Yucatan.  The peninsula is very flat (as it’s a Karst Plain), so all you can see when you’re driving is forest to about 50 feet of height, so it’s an uninteresting drive, although the driver claimed to have seen a tarantula walking across the road.
The local people live only near water, which is reasonably hard to come by round here.  The Karst geology, where water erodes soft limestone, causes all the rivers to sink below ground: there are no surface rivers in Yucatan at all.  In places, though, the caves through which the rivers run collapse, leaving the water exposed in a pool called a cenote.  So houses are built near these features, as without water, you can’t live.  Here’s their local example, swelled a bit by the rain which has been falling for some weeks.
P10203420001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
Their altar for Dia de Muertos is near the pool.
P10203410001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
The people live simply, and are open and friendly, and inquisitive about us.
P10203190001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
P10203370001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
P10203450001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
We move to the local village, Tres Reyes.  This is a substantial township where they will be performing a Mayan shamanistic ceremony.  Here they have a more typical cenote, a very large, steep-sided hole with a pool at the bottom.  (You can scuba dive in the deep ones, and I hope to later in the week).
P10203590001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
Here’s us, hanging at the cenote.  I don’t know why I’m standing like that: possibly because I’ve been climbing up and down muddy cliff paths wearing flip-flops.
P10203810001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
It offers a lot of protection, and during Hurricane Katrina (the one which destroyed New Orleans) the town moved down here for three days while the storm raged.  It’s a lovely place, quite Indiana Jones with the hanging vines and all.  They have incense burners set up around the cenote for the ceremony, burning the sap of a tree.  The smell reminds me of the flux in solder, for some reason.
P10203780001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
There’s turtles in them there cenotes.  Must have walked here I guess, as the rivers are all underground.
P10203970001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
There’s a man and a boy dressed in local ceremonial costumes also, making music with drums and a wind instrument which sounds like a bird.
P10203550001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
After we’ve looked round and taken pictures, the shaman conducts the ceremony.  He passes through the crowd splashing us with water.
P10203940001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
Back up in the town square, there’s a more conventional altar.  The crowd are invited to come up and ask the shaman to remember someone important to them if they wish, and many do.
P10204030001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
At the end, they offer round bowls of a drink made from the bark of a tree.  Never one to turn down a scoop, I have a go.  It tastes a bit like Pernod, but contains no alcohol.  Hmm.  I didn’t drink it all, by the way.
P10204120001.JPG (556x417 pixels)
It’s absolutely bonging hot: so hot, in fact, the Diane is thinking of buying a hat, and I’m thinking of buying a bigger one.  After the conclusion of the ceremony, we have a rather splendid four-course lunch, very welcome as it’s 3pm, and then return to Playa del Carmen.  All in all, a very enjoyable day, and next time, I really must remember to set the camera back to high resolution after taking low-res pictures to sell stuff on the web!  Twit.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>