The Spanish influence on Maya culture is abundantly clear in the jarana, a dance Yucatecans have been performing for centuries. The dance bears more than a passing resemblance to the jota, performed in Spain’s Alto Aragón region. The movements of the dancers, with their torsos held rigid and a formal distance separating men from women, are nearly identical; however, whereas the Spanish punctuate elegant turns of their wrists with clicks of their castanets, Maya women snap their fingers.
The best place to see dancers perform to the accompaniment of jarana is at vaquerías – homegrown fiestas held in the atriums of town halls or on haciendas. The women wear their best embroidered huipiles, flowers in their hair and white heels; men wear a simple white cotton outfit with a red bandanna tucked into the waist. In Mérida, you can catch traditional dance performances on Thursday evenings in Parque Santa Lucia.