This Saturday, the annual Noche Blanca (White Night) de Mérida took place in El Centro Histórico de Mérida! This two-night event is traditional in the city of Mérida and is held twice a year, once in May and once in November/December. It has as a reference the concept of European nights where various galleries, theaters and cultural spaces are open at night with the realization of artistic and cultural events. I have not been to Europe, and thus have no idea what the European nights look like, however, this event is like one I have never experienced before. I was exposed to all the creativity, love, and energy that Yucatecan small vendors have to share! And what was most amazing was that many of the vendors of hand-made products were young adults launching their small businesses (although the people selling food and drinks were mostly elderly couples). I learned that Mérida is shifting the future of artesanal products, and in a positive way. Instead of exploiting the Mayan identity for business, the young vendors who aren’t Mayan create handmade products, like knitted clothings/keychains/earrings/purses or gold and silver-plated jewelry with mineral gemstones, that are affordable and that people can use everyday! For example, there were blocks upon blocks of vendors selling rings, earrings, and necklaces made with gemstones that have positive, healing properties. There were also a couple of extra blocks of clothing and tote bags made out of reused material (like curtains)! Even the edible products were created with sustainability in mind! The home-made jams and syrups, and freshly-made aguas frescas were served in reusables glasses with the intention of reducing plastic waste.
These unique characteristics made me ponder on how mass-production and consumption of big-named brands is so accepted and internalized in our society, that we are either amazed when we encounter sustainability, or outraged because it can be more expensive. In many indigenous or rural communities that are not too engulfed by capitalism yet, being sustainable isn’t praised because it is normal and common. Thus, seeing so many vendors producing responsibly and sustainably is refreshing because it appears that there is a movement in Mérida, an evolving, modern city, of not only supporting smaller vendors, but also changing the way we think and behave with plastics. There are attempts to make sustainability normal and common, and even if it takes decades to take over the city, the small steps count!
I ended my night by sitting in at a concert of a band playing iconic Luis Miguel songs, with a warm piece of Pan de Muerto (as Day of the Dead, or Janal Pixan as it is known in the Yucatan, is approaching) and a delicious mug of Mexican hot chocolate. Down the block, a dance group was offering a grooving salsa class, and crowds were cheering for a drum crew performing on the street. The sound of a band playing on stage in the distance and the buzz of crowds gathering around stands, accompanied the slight breeze blowing through the people – it was a perfect Noche Blanca in Mérida.