Carnaval in Merida— Celebrations in the Yucatan

Carnaval in Mérida, a week of wanton revelry leading up to the restrain-filled observance of Lent, is one of the biggest occasions of the year for the city and considered one of the best carnaval festivals in the world. Here at Hacienda Petac we have a somewhat calmer celebration, one filled with good food and plenty of poolside relaxation, but in nearby Mérida the festivities are some of the best in Latin America.


Although usually with a slightly different theme, Carnaval in Mérida always maintains ties to the country’s Mayan roots as the parades and events throughout the week blend fantasy and reality. Allegorical parade floats, mystical creature costumes and reenactments of Mayan folklore characterize the week of Yucatecan bacchanalia.


Carnaval celebrations began in the 16th century when the Spanish governor began hosting balls, feasts and costume parties for Mérida’s wealthier citizens, the population known as the “Casta Divina,” or the Divine Caste. Since then Carnaval has evolved into a much more egalitarian affair and is now celebrated publicly in the city’s tree-lined central plaza. Festivities commence with the Burning of the Bad Humors (Quemando de Mal Humor) a firework filled ritual in which evil spirits are chased and burned as a means to purge the city and make way for the week’s revelry. The next day features the Parade of the Children, a procession of floats filled with enthusiastic kids in colorful costumes representing Mayan mystical spirits. The coroneted Carnaval king and queen follow behind, dressed in full traditional costume.


Each day thereafter is defined by raucous parades and performances that bleed into evening concerts and outdoor parties that last until dawn.  Coordinated by the Carnaval Committee, hundreds of artists from all over the world fly in for curated exhibitions while musicians, dancers and models offer glamour to each day of parades. The streets of Mérida are replete with partiers on bleachers, kids on parents’ shoulders, food vendors on curbs and local TV and radio personalities on stages set up to comment on it all.


By the end of the weekend, the city’s party stamina begins to wane, allowing for the Regional Parade – the most traditionally Mayan parade of the bunch and characterized by Yucatecan music and horse-drawn carriages – to be much more family-oriented. Although it is truly the best overindulgence of the year, Mérida’s Carnaval is known in particular for being a somewhat respectful celebration that centers more on family. Less emphasis is placed on pre-Lent debauchery here than it is in many other cities.


The Carnaval’s finale, one of our favorite parts of the week, is another annual tradition known as The Battle of the Flowers where, instead of throwing beads or candy, crowds throw fresh flowers at each other. Originally a mock battle with flowers for ammunition, it is now an official work holiday and the colorful final hurrah before, with the tongue-in-cheek ceremony of the Burial of Juan Carnaval, events come to a close.


It seems that the number of Carnaval attendees grows with each passing year. According to Mayor Renan Barrera, Mérida played host to over one million visitors throughout Carnaval 2013. Discussions have already begun with regards to relocating future celebrations. Officials are looking for a different part of the city until the Paseo de Montejo Avenue – the traditional parade route – can be modernized and expanded to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of celebrators.


Until then, though, Mérida returns to its normal, more elegant sensibilities. Here at Hacienda Petac, we’re waking up to calmer mornings and spending lovely evenings in the Chapel. Even we will admit, though, to our lingering curiosity over just what next year’s carnaval might bring.





Photo Credit: Metro Travel

Authentic Yucatan Recipes—Caldo Tlalpeño

A classic spicy and smoky Mexico soup, caldo tlalpeño will keep your insides warm throughout the “El Norte” winds of January and February. Our chicken soup for the Yucatecan soul is an all time favorite here at Hacienda Petac, and tastes best with avocado and cilantro added at the end.


Recipe: (for four)



1 Avocado

1 cup of garbanzo beans

3 plum tomatoes

½ white onion

1 tsp. chile chipotle salsa

1 ½ liter fresh chicken stock

½ cooked chicken breast, shredded

Salt to taste

4 sprigs of cilantro



Wash the dried garbanzos and soak overnight or boil for at least half an  hour, then let rest for a bit before boiling for at least two hours until beans are soft.


Chop the onion finely. Set aside. Scoop out the seeds of the tomatoes and discard. Chop the tomatoes finely. Set aside.


When the garbanzos are soft, drain them and then put them into the fresh chicken broth. Add the tomatoes and onion, the chipotle sauce, and salt to taste. The soup should simmer for at least one hour for the flavors to blend.


To serve, put a generous lump of shredded chicken into the bottom of a soup bowl, add the soup, and garnish with three or four chunks of avocado and a sprig of cilantro.

Mérida Events— Celebrating 471 Years of Yucatecan Arts and Culture

January 6th marks the birthday of our favorite capital city! Founded in 1542 on what was once the famous Mayan city of T’ho, Mérida, the cultural and artistic epicenter of the Yucatan region, is 471 years old this year.


The celebrations begin on the evening of the 5th and continue throughout the month until the 26th during what is known as the Festival de la Ciudad. The Festival kicks off on the eve of the city’s birthday with the traditional “Alborada,” a serenade performed by hundreds of the area’s singers. Songs and dances continue throughout the evening until the stroke of midnight, when a ringing of bells celebrates officially the birth of the beautiful city.


In proper Catholic tradition, January 6th also marks the Epiphany, or “Los Reyes Magos” as it’s known in Mexico, the feast day that marks the revelation of the Son of God in the form of Jesus Christ. Mexican children are given presents to acknowledge the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus and masses are held throughout the day.


Throughout the following weeks, throughout the Festival de la Ciudad, more than 1,000 artists will gather in every neighborhood of Mérida to honor it.  More than 250,000 people are expected to attend the musical events, theatrical performances and artist exhibitions.


Photo by

Felices Fiestas

Yucatecan Food Recipes: Poc Chuc

This tender and tangy pork specialty, flavored with sour orange juice, achiote, and onions, is one of our favorite Yucatecan food recipes. Before refrigeration, pork was salted for preservation and acids like orange juice were added to dishes to combat the saltiness. We have been told that this particular recipe originated in the historic town Mani, just about an hour away from Hacienda Petac. We slow cook it over a charcoal fire rather than a pan on the stove, and serve it rolled into corn tortillas. It is perfect following sopa de tortilla and with a cold beer!

Ingredients: (for four)

5 or 6 tender filets of milanesa of pork – try to choose ones without sinew

Juice of 2 sour oranges

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

4 halves of sour orange



Marinade the pork filets in the orange juice, minced garlic, and a dash of black pepper and salt for half an hour.


Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal fire. When the fire is ready, cook the pork filets. Be careful not to overcook them. Since they are thin, they will only need to cook a few minutes on each side.


To serve, put a filet and a half on each plate along with the juice of half a sour orange, roasted tomato chiltomate sauce, and roasted red onion salsa.


Virgin of Guadalupe—The Queen of Mexico

The month of December teems with holidays, saints’ days, and festivals throughout Mexico and the Yucatan. As in most other Catholic countries, the beginning of December marks the time to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This holiday, near and dear to our hearts here at Hacienda Petac, features a few weeks of masses and pilgrimages that culminate in a feast for the Virgin Mary on December 8th. A holy day of obligation, it is filled with folk dances, decorations, and, as ever, plenty of food.


Four days later, on December 12th, our region honors the Blessed Virgin again with the celebration of her icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The story of the Virgin and how she came to be the patroness of Mexico dates as far back as 1531, when she appeared miraculously before Aztec-born Juan Diego as he traveled near what is now Mexico City.


As the story goes, the apparition of the Virgin Mary, beautiful and shining on the hillside, came into view before Juan Diego, offered him kind words, and asked for his help to build a shrine in her honor. Uncertain, he sought advice from the Spanish archbishop, who demanded proof of Mary’s existence. Three days later, on December 12th, the Virgin appeared before Juan Diego once more, calling him, “her son” and gently suggesting that he go pick roses from a nearby valley – a place that, during December, grew no flowers. Juan Diego followed her instructions, found the promised roses and returned to the archbishop. When he opened his tilma, or cloak, to reveal the miraculous flowers, an image of the Virgin herself was emblazoned on the inside of it. Stunned and impressed, the archbishop ordered the building of the church after the Virgin and Juan Diego became legendary.


Not until 1745 did the Vatican recognize Juan Diego’s vision as a genuine miracle, but by that time the apparition was already dubbed the Virgin of Guadalupe and the story was enmeshed in Mexican celebrations and folklore. The basilica, indeed built on the spot that she requested, still houses the original tilma with the untarnished image of the Virgin on the inside.


Not a strictly Catholic icon, La Virgen de Guadalupe is portrayed as a young Indian woman with traditional clothing – including a cloak of the color we call Maya blue – and has come to represent the blending of Spanish, Aztec and Mayan cultures. At Hacienda Petac we feature a modern figure of La Guadalupe in the large chapel that serves the village and in which we have wedding ceremonies. She is now the most popular religious and cultural symbol of the area and is celebrated for two weeks each December with daily parades leading up to the 12th, various sacrifices, food, dance and much prayer. Children dress as Juan Diego, donning moustaches and cloaks, and adults fashion altars to the Virgin from palm fronds, flowers and balloons.


If visiting Hacienda Petac in the next few weeks or the area nearby, you might even see one of our favorite parts of the holiday: the Virgin’s torch runners. The runners, who have trained throughout the year, go throughout the city and across the country with torches alight in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some plan long lone expeditions all of the way to Mexico City, some are cheered on by a motorcade, some participate in relays and travel short distances, but all run as thanks for prayers fulfilled in the past year or as promises for the upcoming one. By 10 am on December 12th, the runners return to Mérida, where processionals, music, confetti and fireworks welcome them to morning mass and the rest of the day’s celebrations.


This time of the year makes us feel a bit nostalgic here at Hacienda Petac, and we find ourselves humbled every time we walk past the Hacienda’s modern statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe as she sits in the beautiful, full-sized chapel on the Hacienda grounds. We aren’t the only ones, already are there sounds of fireworks from the village in anticipation of the celebrations. Come see La Guadalupe for yourself, hear the mañanitas, the morning songs that people sing on the way to Mass, eat some poc choc, and cheer for the torch runners as they make their way to the city.




About Hacienda Petac

Hacienda Petac is one of the most extraordinary vacation experiences in the world. A Premier Class Resort, this historic estate near Mérida, Yucatán offers five-star luxury to just one group at a time.

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