After the heavy summer sun and the high temperatures, we feel a change in the air.
It is the “aire de finados”, like the old Mayans say, the “air of the dead”. This is not a deadly scent. It is just a sign that the Day of the Dead is near to come.
This is the transition to the tropical winter. Not only temperatures descend, but also the colors appear to change. Everything turns a little less bright. Now, we don’t see the plumeria trees full of flowers. The nights last longer and the sunsets feel a little bit heavier.
You can feel the mysticism around the trees and the wind. Even though, this is not a time to be sad. It is a time to celebrate the life of those that are no longer in this world.
A change that also brings traditional seasonal food
Take a walk to any market from Campeche to Quintana Roo. You will see tons of seasonal ingredients displayed along the tables. You will amaze with all the colors and textures of the south-eastern Mexican traditions in this time of the year.
Once the last days of October arrive, we see an increase in the demand of “x’pelon”, or Mayan beans.
Families rush to the preparation of the traditional “Mucbilpollos”. These are huge and thick tamales baked in an underground oven. People fill them with pork and chicken meat, boiled with spices such as pepper, garlic, cumin, and achiote, which is a red seed with strong color and flavor.
You can see the family members gathering around the table happy to prepare this exquisite meal. Usually, women fix the ingredients while men dig and start the underground over or “pib”.
There’s no equal to the smell of firewood even though the use of gas ovens is frequent nowadays.
A plate that few people talk about is the “Xeek”, this means “Mix” in Mayan. It is a fruit salad that includes sour orange, sweet orange, tangerine, and jicama. Top it with cilantro and season it with a little salt and lime juice for a delicious and healthy snack.
X’tabentun. The famous liquor is made from these gorgeous flowers.
The white footprints
Altars are very popular across the country. They usually contain pictures of the dead and their favorite food and drinks. If the deceased was a child then you can find their favorite toys.
Each region has its own way of decorating the table. You can see colorful flowers and embroidered tablecloths. The traditional Mayan way includes banana leaves, jicaras, and x’tabentun, which is a delicious liquor made of honey.
People tell that the souls come down to visit their living relatives during these days. Some others say that if you want proof of their arrival, you should throw flour or baby powder on the floor at night. Then, the morning after, you will see the dead’s footprints on their way to the table.
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