Belize’s Hanal Pixan

In my home country, the USA, ancestor veneration is unconquered territory. Most WASP American families grieve in private. Talking about death is taboo, and one might be considered insane or criminally suspect if they celebrated during or immediately after a death. Our national holidays are ruled by capitalism, false sentiment, gluttony, and alcoholism. Spirituality often equivocates to religious extremism or fads. All of this to say, as I have said many times, I’m enamoured by cultures with authentic, strong, and vivid traditions, particularly those who openly mourn and honour their dead.
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Hanal Pixan parade. Credit: Medium
My song for this entry is a sultry number by Maria Moctezuma:
Ethnic Yucatec Mayans in Belize practice Hanal Pixan which means “food for the souls” with similar motifs found in other Middle/South American veneration festivals such as flowers, candles, and altars. Festivities start on 31 October and last for three days, including masses and feasts. These Mayans tie a red or black string around the wrists of their children and tie up any animals that may be tempted to run loose or be taken during these nights.
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Children with black wrist ties. Credit:
Traditional foods for Hanal Pixan include lima soup, tortillas filled with eggs in pumpkin seed sauce, and the wondrous Mucbipollo delicacy. Mucbipollo is a giant corn tamale that combines Mayan and Spanish flavours so they are filled with chicken, pork, peppers, tomatoes, and spices. Credit: The Yucatan Times Mucbipollos are wrapped in banana leaves then placed in an outdoor pit and baked underground. Due to the size, it is often served more like a casserole. I found a great recipe here. For Sopa de Lima (lima soup), check out this recipe:
Cochinita Pibil is a crowd-pleaser you can make in the Crock Pot, but in the event you do have a traditional Yucatecan pit in your backyard you can find a more genuine recipe here.
Another Hanal Pixan / Dia de los Muertos favourite is Tinga Poblana, a spicy chicken and chorizo stew:
This news story is in Spanish, but highlights the foods of Hanal Pixan:
I have not yet had the opportunity to try my hand at these delicacies but stay tuned in the near future!
Check out this mini-doc (in English) about Hanal Pixan in Merida, Yucatan:
In contrast, this one was filmed mostly during daylight and highlights ritual clothing and makeup:
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