Vaquerias are traditional feasts and celebrations of music and dance unique to Yucatán. The traditional Vaqueria Feast is influenced by the traditions of the both the indigenous Maya and the Spanish and is usually held in honor of the patron saint of a village or hacienda (plantation). The fiesta typically lasts for several days and includes traditional food, music, dancing and fireworks.
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Vaquerias were magnificent displays of wealth during the sisal boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, they continue to be important celebrations for the people living in Yucatan.
The music at a Vaquerias is provided by a Jarana orchestra. Also called charangas, Jarana orchestras play the traditional music of Yucatan and provide the musical entertainment at Vaquerias as well as at processions honoring patron saints and local bullfights. In addition to wind and brass instruments, Jarana orchestras include a guiro (dry gourd with slits) and timbales (kettledrums).
The Jarana is the traditional folk dance of Yucatán and blends European rhythms with Mayan traditions. Women wear the traditional hipil (embroidered dress or tunic) with a shawl and white high heel shoes, and the men wear a guayabera shirt, Panama hat, red scarf and leather sandals.
Bombas are playful or comedic rhymes recited during the Jarana to entertain the audience. They’re usually recited by the male dance partner during breaks in the music, but they can also be initiated by shouting, “bomba!” which causes the music to stop and the bombas to begin.
Deciding what to do in Merida? Make sure that your plans include attending a traditional Vaquería Feast. Vaquerias are held on Monday nights in front of the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) in Merida’s central plaza. The dancers are part of Mérida’s Folkloric Ballet and the music is provided by a traditional Jarana orchestra. The weekly event is free and open to the public.