Spring holiday travel to Mexico is in full swing, with many destinations reporting record occupancy levels. Most visitors will head straight to the beach. But, this is also a key month for major cultural events throughout the country.
“Mexico is the ideal place to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Not only is the weather warm and dry, there are several festivals celebrating the spring equinox. From children’s parades in towns to dramatic displays of sun and shadows at archeological sites there are plenty of ways to celebrate and appreciate the local customs,” Lynn Clark, vice president of travel agency engagement for Funjet Vacations, tells Travel Agent.
One local custom that’s garnered wide-spread acclaim is the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival. The fourth annual event takes place later this week, attracting an international roster of top chefs, wine-makers and gastronomes.
"We are very excited to welcome some of the world's top names in gastronomy and wine to Cancun for the upcoming Festival," Alberto Gurrola, managing director, Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa, tells Travel Agent.
"As a Platinum Host Resort, our guests will have a front row seat for all the action, as we are the venue for one of the festival's main events, the Star Chefs Dinner, which showcases the best cuisine from 25 chefs from Mexico and around the world. We are also hosting the festival’s Celebrity Conferences with legendary Spanish Chefs Joan Roca and Juan Mari Arzak, who will share their personal perspectives and also sign their books. For foodies, this week will be a very special experience,” said Gurrola.
Mexico is full of such special experiences this time of year. But clients need to venture out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms to find them.
“Mexico has some of the greatest properties you will find anywhere. But in some ways, a hotel is a hotel. It’s important to really know a destination and you can only do that by wandering around and taking part in local life and customs,” Lian Augustine, product manager, Mexico and Latin America for American Airlines Vacations / US Airways Vacations, tells Travel Agent.
Spring equinox celebrations are a unique aspect of those customs. If clients are in Mexico on the date of this year’s equinox (March 20) they’re in luck.
Festivals marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring take place throughout the country. In many locations, children parade about dressed as springtime flowers. And at key archaeological sites, crowds gather to observe rituals dating back to the Maya.
Among the most popular sites are Chichen Itza’s Kulkulkan Temple. Crowds gather to observe the illusion of light and shadow that creates a “snake” that slithers down the pyramid. The phenomenon also takes place during the autumnal equinox, thanks to the Maya’s astronomical and engineering prowess.
Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City, is another gathering spot on the spring equinox. It’s believed to be a great source of energy on that day, attracting new-age devotees (dressed in white) by the thousands.
The following day, March 21, is a national holiday in Mexico honoring the revered president, Benito Juarez. And at the end of the month comes the most colorful celebratory period in Mexico.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, precedes Easter Sunday, which is on April 5 this year. Semana Santa begins on Palm Sunday, March 29. It’s followed by a week of processions, pageants and passion plays of varying intensity throughout the country. Events are especially elaborate in colonial cities, such as Oaxaca and San Luis Potosi.
If clients happen to be in Mexico City during Holy Week, tell them about Iztapalapa. That’s a suburb to the south known for country’s largest passion play, the Via Crucis. The event blends together indigenous and European elements in what has become a folk-religious mega-event. In fact, UNESCO is considering it for a “human treasure” designation as part of its intangible cultural heritage program. A cultural festival takes place in conjunction with the Via Crucis. Booths, street vendors and even carnival rides all contribute to an unforgettable experience.