Yucatán State has always been characterized by being a region full of customs and traditions. Both in Mérida, the capital city, and in nearby towns and communities, one can enjoy a large number of festivals and celebrations, which primarily are held to commemorate the patron saints and to observe various anniversaries of the towns or municipalities throughout the year.
These festivities commonly last for an entire week; people in each community often wear traditional costumes and decorate the town’s church, police station and important public venues where different activities are organized for the occasion with colorful flags.
As for the traditional festivities, be sure not to miss the vaquerías, or rodeos; the guilds; public dances with musical groups; and the fairs where there are exhibits a number of typical products of the region.
The costumes of the region are the traditional dress for women, which consists of three parts: the fustian which is a white slip worn from the waist and extends to the feet; the hipil, or sun dress, which is a white garment of medium length and whose trim is embroidered in colors; and the white doublet which is a fully embroidered piece of square neckline that is worn over the hipil. The regional attire for men consists of a guayabera and a pair of white trousers.
Do note, however, that in Mérida it is not common to find people dressed in these outfits. This attire is more prevalent in outlying communities, which remain less influenced by cosmopolitan preferences in sartorial attire.
Rodeos are popular festivals whose origin are found in the haciendas and ranches throughout Yucatán State as part of festivities to honor patrons (land barons and ecclesiastical authorities). In these festivities people usually dance the jarana, a typical dance of the region, explained below.
The duration and the extravagance of the rodeos are determined by the disposable income of various communities. They normally last three to seven days during which various activities are organized. These range from regional dances, music, and exhibitions, to processions and religious observances.
The Jarana is the traditional dance par excellence performed in Yucatán State. As its name implies it is a musical style full of excitement, fun, and gallantry. Its musical style is derived from European rhythms combined with cultural expressions of the Maya people.
The dance is usually performed by couples dressed in traditional costume, where the dance movements are kept with the stomping of feet. The arms gesticulate in an elevated manner and the torso is held steady and upright. In Mérida there are numerous groups that specialize in this dance and which, when performed in public, are a cause for artistic pride to locals and visitors alike.
In Yucatán, “bomba” can mean three things: a bomb, a pump—and a limerick! These limericks rhyme, are interspersed several times with Jarana music, which stops abruptly to accommodate both the saying of the verses—and the delivery of the naughty, romantic or ingenious punchlines. Yucatán is famous for its limericks and these give a unique touch and fun to local festivities. In spite of the fact that there are current versions that differ from the original bombas, many of which border on the rude or inappropriate, there are many Yucatecans who preserve and disseminate the original sense of the bombas, which can still be seen in rodeos and dances throughout the towns and villages of Yucatán, as well as in the city of Mérida.