Free public concerts and events are common in towns and cities across Mexico, but Mérida really steals the show when it comes to free entertainment. Every single night of the week, Mérida is host to a whole array of public events to keep you entertained.
Here I’ve created a handy guide so that you know when and where to catch some Grade A entertainment on any night of the week. Everything listed is free, unless otherwise stated.
Mondays – Noches de Vaqueria
In front of the Palacio Municipal in the Plaza Grande every Monday you can see a performance of this special local dance. The clothes, the colours, the music and the fun atmosphere of this dance will blow you away.
Tuesdays – Rembranzas Musicales
If you’re ever feeling down about the state of the world head to Santiago on a Tuesday evening and watch as couples and families from all over the city come and dance together to live music from the 40s. Santiago is said to be the oldest and most traditional of all the neighbourhoods and some of the local couples who you will see have been coming to dance together on Tuesdays since they fell in love 50 years ago! Theres a little bolero, a little cha-cha-cha….join in or simply enjoy a snack from the next door market and watch this display of true joy.
Wednsdays – Tour of the Cemetery
A good one if you’re visiting near to Day of the Dead or if you just want to learn more about the history of the city, this tour of the general cemetery will show you some of the well-known people who rest there, quite a bit of interesting local history and a lot of information about the rituals of burying the dead, from Pre-Hispanic times up to now. The cemetery dates to the 1820s and is quite the visual feast. Tours leave at 8pm from the main house you’ll see inside the cemetery, at Calle 81a x 90.
Thursdays – Serenata Santa Lucia
This open air concert of live music and traditional dancing is a 40 year old tradition in the city. Join in by heading to Santa Lucia park at 9pm. Get a table in one of the many restaurants that line the park and enjoy the show!
Fridays – Pok ta Pok
Have you ever imagined what an ancient Mayan ball game might look like? On Fridays in front of the Cathedral you can see a representation of Pok ta Pok, the Mayan game in which the objective is to hit the ball through a high stone hoop using the hips and shoulders – no easy feat! The game is steeped in mystery. Some say that only the best soldiers were picked to play and that the losers were sacrificed to the gods.
Before the game you can witness a purification ritual which creates an electric atmosphere. Come and see it for yourself at 8pm every Friday.
Photo from yucatanexpatlife.com
Saturdays – Noche Mexicana
Every Saturday in the park El Remate (at the centro end of Paseo Montejo) you will find lots of traditional food, handicrafts and performances by dancers, singers and even comedians, from all over Mexico. It is a chance to get to know some of the food and traditions from other states of the country and its a lovely way to spend Saturday evening.
Sundays – Biciruta and Mérida en Domingo
Arguably the best day to be in Mérida, on Sundays there is so much to do.
Biciruta happens every Sunday from 8am -12pm. The streets are closed off to traffic and you can rent a bike and cycle from the top of Paseo Montejo all the way down to the pretty neighbourhood of La Ermita. Along the way you will find music, stalls selling crafts, refreshments and shows for children and families. Plus, you get to enjoy the centre in all its colourful glory at a relaxed pace, stopping along the way to take photos and eat. Rent your bike from one of many points along Paseo Montejo.
Mérida en Domingo is an event that takes place in the Plaza Grande throughout the whole day on Sunday. The whole park is full of stalls selling local products and handicrafts, such as honey, blouses and jewellery. Around the perimeter of the park loads of street food stalls set up and put tables out on the street, selling some of the best of Yucatan’s antojitos, such as panuchos, tacos, tortas, sopa de lima and papadzules. There is also a cultural programme which takes place under the Palacio Municipal, including jarana and vaqueria dancing, comedians, children’s shows and an orchestra.
From Thursdays to Saturdays Calle 60 is closed off to traffic for the event ‘En el Corazon de Merida’ where you will find some local groups playing in the street, street stands selling all sorts of things and the restaurants put their tables out in the street to create huge terraces.
On Fridays and Saturdays you can join in with ‘Noches de Leyenda’, a roaming theatre work / tour of downtown Mérida. You’ll be led around some of the most important buildings where the actors will recreate scenes from Mérida’s colonial history, with a touch of humour. Starts at 8.30pm in front of the Peon Contreras Theatre on Calle 60. It has a cost of 120 pesos per adult.