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 in the Americas with the Spaniards and were adapted to the local customs, becoming a very unique celebration.
What exactly is a Gremio?
Gremios are voluntary associations of people in the same trade who would get together to participate in religious and social activities to honor their own patron saint every year. While today the professional aspect isn’t always there (as people stay in their family’s Gremio, instead of their own trade’s), there are Gremios of musicians, shop owners, women, young ladies and youth, shoemakers, woodcutters, fishermen, merchants, farmers, ranchers, and many more.
The heart of the Fiestas Gremiales
The colors, rituals, and symbols from the Gremios celebrations are part of the culture of many Yucatecans. For context, almost all rural communities, cities and Barrios (neighborhoods) have a patron saint. This combination of the sacred and the social activity is very appealing to observers.
During the Fiestas Gremiales (the Gremios’ parties), all the members wear Guayaberas and Ternos and carry religious banners with the image of their patron saint, and they walk together with Charanga music and fireworks until they enter the church. The saint and banners are specially located inside the temple while they hear mass, pray rosaries and worship with candles, prayers, and floral arrangements. Some of them sing “Las Mañanitas” (the Mexican birthday song) to the saints very early in the morning. Each Gremio decides on its own activities and plans them for months.
During the evening the social festivities take place, starting with the traditional Vaquerías, Jarana dances Bombas, traditional dances, and fireworks. Normally all this takes place in the main plaza or sports field in the town or city. As per tradition, some food and games stands are installed. These celebrations are so important that almost everyone in the smaller towns participates. Some towns also organize a lunch for all the participants, where dishes like Cochinita Pibil, Relleno Negro, or Chocolomo 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. Would you like to know the dates of each Fiesta? Check “Yucatán Festivals This Month” to find out which one fits your calendar. The ones for March are in Mayapán (the 18th), Tecoh (20), and Chumayel (28); and in April, Izamal (the 3rd), Ticul (5), Timucuy (10), and Progreso (15). Enjoy!
Gremios in Mérida: September 27 to October 17 at San Ildefonso Cathedral
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Born in Mérida, Violeta is a communicologist dedicated to writing and creating content on tourism, fashion, and entrepreneurship. She has recently started working as an English-Spanish translator.
Photography by Yucatán Today for its use in Yucatán Today.
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