September 27th marks the beginning of Merida’s Season of Los Gremios, the spiritual – and spirited – time for the city’s gremios, or guilds, to give their thanks.
The annual tradition dates back to 1654 when a fire in the neighboring village of Ichmul destroyed everything except the local cathedral’s wooden Christ figure. Although slightly blistered and damaged, the figure of Christ was relocated to the cathedral in Merida’s centro. Considered a protector of the city’s citizens ever since, the “Christ of the Blisters” is paid homage every year throughout three weeks of celebration by the city’s proverbial butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.
The holiday is structured so that the members of each gremio, or guild, have two reserved days in which to publicly give their respective thanks. Beginning on September 27th and ending on October 17, each syndicate’s pilgrimage begins at the cathedral with a noon mass, and ends the next day after another early morning mass. Once one gremio has left the cathedral, another group of workers enters for their own noon mass. While book-ended by humble prayer, the celebratory day in between for each group is replete with music and dance, costumes and color, and the underlying hint of competition as each trade tries to outdo the others for best show. As the season continues, the processions become an increasingly raucous affair.
Ultimately, at the close of three weeks, the Christ of the Blisters is paraded throughout the cathedral, more thanks are given, and the entire city turns to a final revelry of fireworks, food and festivals, or ferias.
Look below for a calendar of each guild’s procession:
27 Construction workers
28 Small business owners
29 Devotees of Christ
30 Mirror, aluminum and glass workers
2 Seamstresses and embroiderers
3 Taxi drivers
5 Mechanics and ironworkers
8 Business owners and hacienda owners
9 Shop owners
10 Shop owners and workers
11 Teachers and students
14 Trinket stall owners and employees
16 Market stall workers