When you come to México, you immediately notice its cultural richness, whether in the streets, in the markets, or in the people themselves. Fiestas seem to be happening all the time, as if there is always something to celebrate. And there probably is!
At different times of the year, but especially from August to October, the religious processions called “Los Gremios” (the guilds) take place in the main streets, parks and public areas in many communities of Yucatán, including Mérida. These religious festivities of European origin that unite families under “cofradías” (brotherhoods), arrived to the Americas with the Spaniards and were adapted to the local customs, becoming a very unique celebration. Today “Los Gremios” are volunteer associations of people who work together and participate in religious and social activities to honor their own patron saint every year.
The colors, rituals, and symbols from the Gremios celebrations are part of the culture of many Yucatecans. Almost all rural communities, cities and “barrios” have a patron saint. There are “gremios” of philharmonics, suppliers, women, young ladies and youth, shoemakers, woodcutters, fishermen, merchants, farmers, ranchers, and more. This combination of the sacred and the social activity is very appealing for observers.
On the one hand, religious moments are witnessed in the processions, during which all the members of the “gremio” wear “guayaberas” and “ternos,” and carry religious standards with the image of their patron saint, and they walk together with “charanga” music and “voladores” until they enter the church. The saint and standards are specially located inside the temple while they hear a mass with rosaries and adoration with candles, prayers, and floral arrangements. Some of them sing “Las Mañanitas” (a birthday song) to the saints very early in the morning. Each “gremio” decides on its own activities.
During the evening the social festivities take place, starting with the traditional “vaquerías,” jarana dances and “bombas,” traditional dances and fireworks. Normally all this takes place in the main plaza or sports field in the town or city. As a tradition some food and games stands are installed. These celebrations are so important that almost everyone in the smaller towns participate. Some towns also organize a lunch for all the participants, where cochinita pibil or relleno negro are prepared and served.
These religious and social moments are repeated daily according to the number of “gremios” that each community has. So yes, in Yucatán there are always fiestas taking place. Enjoy!
Gremios in Mérida: September 27 to October 17 at San Ildefonso Cathedral
Cover photo: Children’s “gremio,” Colonia Chuburná, Mérida, taken on August 22, 2016 by Fernanda Ortíz Morales.
By: Violeta H. Cantarell
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