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Everybody Thinks Of Rio When It Comes To Carnivals—But Other Latin American Countries Celebrate Too: Here Are Mexico’s Top Carnavales

Despite its international reputation for loving a good party, Mexico isn’t known for its Carnival although it is celebrated in one form or another in about 225 communities. Of course none is anywhere as big or famous as those of Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans, but they’re still a lively and fun party nevertheless. In Mexico all carnivals have a different meaning and history behind them, but they’re all colorful and lively parties that are closely linked to the days of ‘mal agüero’ or ‘lost days’ of the Mesoamerican Xalámatl calendar.

Like other Catholic celebrations, Carnival was introduced into Mexico by the Spanish.

It gained acceptance by many indigenous communities because it fell around the same time as the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar. The lost days and Carnival, both share the same traditions of donning masks and letting certain social rules slide.

But when the social rules were sliding a little too much, the Spanish halted the celebrations.

In fact it was those two things that caused colonial authorities to suppress Carnival in New Spain by the 17th century. Celebrations by the indigenous and lower castes had become too irreverent and mocking of authority. By the early 18th century, major Carnival celebrations had been successfully banned in the cities.

A number of small towns however, managed to keep the tradition alive.

A few rural areas managed to evade enforcement, and their Carnivals survived. However, the ban had the effect of isolating such celebrations, one reason why each fiesta has very localized characteristics.

These are the largest and most famous carnavales:

Mazatlan, Sinaloa

One of the most popular carnivals is the one that takes place in Mazatlan. This carnaval is known for being one of the oldest celebrations in the country. At the Sinaloan party you’ll find celebrations like “The coronation of the king of ‘Alegría’ and the carnival queen,” you can go to the inauguration of gastronomic tasting menus, the fantasy dance, and the “quema del mal humor.” Other traditional activities include the naval combat, the dance of the ambassadors and many others.

This carnival takes place from February 8 through the 13. Visit www.carnavalmazatlan.net for more info.

Veracruz

The jarocho carnival is possibly the most famous one. This party is one of the loudest and most  colorful events of Mexico. This year, Veracruz will be crowning a carnival king and queen, for both adults and children. There will be concerts, parades and lots and lots of food. Also, expect the traditional ‘quema de mal humor.’

It will be running from February 7 to 13. For more information go to carnavalveracruz.com.mx

Carnaval de Campeche

Campeche’s carnival is also one of the oldest ones of the country. An important activity is the ‘quema del mal humor’, which is represented by a rag doll dressed as a pirate. Once the doll is set on fire, the ‘festival de las flores’ starts, as well as the popular dances and parades. This carnival will also choose a king and queen who will receive their crowns on a saturday, also known as ‘Sabado de Bando’. Other activities include the ‘ronda naval; a paint fight, also known as ‘pintadera’, concerts and more.

This carnival takes place from January 1 to February 13.

Carnaval de Morelos

The state of Morelos is home to many carnivals. There’s the carnival of Axochiapan, Tlatizapan, Tlayacapan, Tepoztlan, Yautepec and Atlatlahuacan. One of the events that are most representatives of Morelos carnavales is the ‘representacion del origen del Chinelo’ in Tlayacapan.

On from February 7 to March 24.

Merida, Yucatan

The state of Yucatan also has the traditional ‘quema del mal humor’, coronation of the carnival king and queen, as well as parades for children. Other activities include ‘Sábado de Fantasía’, Domingo de Bachata, Tuesday of the battle of the flowers and for the last day of the ‘Celebracion de la carne’ they burry Juan Carnaval.

Carnaval de Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca

In this small town, the locals put on a satire of Mestizo customs like weddings and divorces called “Danza de los tejorones” —in this dance, the tejorones are young mestizos that dance with a rattle and a handkerchief. At this carnival, you’ll also find comparsas, masks and the staging of ‘the caceria del tigre.’ Visit this carnival throughout February

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

At this festival, locals dress up as Mash —a monkey— which is one of the traditional attires of San Juan Chamula. They run and hide from bulls that they let loose in the Plaza of San Juan Chamula. This carnival also celebrates the dances of ‘comisarios’, ‘xionales’ and ‘maltajimones.’

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