Carnavál 101

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The 2018 dates of Carnavál de Mazatlán are February 8-13.

People worldwide—from Russia, Croatia and Turkey to Angola, Cape Verde and the Seychelles; from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, throughout North and South America and the Caribbean—celebrate the public street party and parade most popularly called Mardi Gras or Carnavál. It is thus quite natural that Mazatlán, with our rich immigrant heritage, would be blessed with a Carnavál tradition that is the oldest in Mexico, dating back at least 191 years to 1827.

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Photo from the CD of the Friends of Viejo Mazatlán

Tourists frequently feel confused by the fact that Carnavál doesn’t take place on a set date each year. Carnavál in most parts of the world is traditionally held during the week leading up to Lent; it’s the last big blowout before the Christian season of fasting and reflection. Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnavál, precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Calendar dates change annually because Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter, a religious holiday based on an ecclesiastical calendar and celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

In its first few decades Mazatlán’s Carnavál was a spontaneous “celebration of the people” during which revelers would decorate buggies, burros, horses, bicycles and eventually cars for the big parade and dance at masquerade balls and street parties. Carnavál de Mazatlán became an official city event with an organizing committee and budget in 1898. Which means that in 2018 we celebrate 120 years of our official fiesta máxima. Carnavál became official because it had grown in size and popularity and required coordination. The story behind that reality, however, is quite interesting.

You may be familiar with the tradition of juegos de harina or throwing colored flour and water during Carnavál, much like Holi in the Hindu tradition. Cascarones, filling egg shells with flour or confetti and then breaking them on people, are part of this tradition, too. The custom seems to have originated in Spain, and is popular throughout many of the former Spanish colonies. Well, those “flour games” (not to be confused with Floral Games) became very popular in the 1800s in Mazatlán—so popular that by the latter part of the century there were two “camps” of Carnavál revelers who annually “warred” with each other, rather similar to the “warring tribes” in New Orleans. According to historian Enrique Vega Ayala, the Abastos group held the territory between 21 de Marzo and Zaragoza streets, while the area belonging to the rival Mueyes went from 21 de Marzo through Playa Sur. People from these two camps would regularly decorate floats and ride them into “enemy” territory, bombarding anyone they could find with flour bombs. For years city officials and upstanding citizens tried to ban such over-the-top revelry, but without success. People like to have fun. Once Carnavál de Mazatlán became official, however, the city began funding the purchase of confetti and serpentine streamers, and the tradition of the “flour wars” receded into a distant memory.

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Winnie Farmer,                     Mazatlán’s first Carnavál Queen

For decades Mazatlán has had three queens each year: Queen of Carnavál (since 1900), Queen of the Floral Games (since 1937), and the Child Queen (since 1968). Historically, however, the king predates the queens. The first Carnavál King was crowned in 1898, two years before the first queen. The King of Joy was originally called the Rey Feo, or Ugly King—the title was changed in 1965. Mazatlán’s very first queen way back in 1900 was not Mexican but was born in Maine, USA: Winnie Farmer. She grew up in Mazatlán, was crowned at 17, moved back to the US in her thirties, and returned to Mazatlán in 1956—aged 64—to ride a float in the Carnavál parade once again.

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Maestro Rigo with me in his taller

One of my greatest thrills for many years was joining local legend Maestro Rigoberto Lewis in his workshop to watch him finish up the carrozas alegóricas or royal floats. Maestro Rigo always told me he was born during Carnavál and had it in his blood. He designed the Carnavál de Mazatlán floats for 54 years; those intricately decorated, classical floats, very tall, were his signature style. Maestro Rigo died in 2014, just prior to Carnavál.

Smaller than the revelry in Rio or New Orleans, Mazatlán is said to have the third-largest Carnavál celebrations in the world—remarkable for a city of its size. Our local tradition is a family-friendly one; as far back as 1900 a ball was held for children, and young people city-wide practice their dancing and instrument playing for months before the big day. Along the parade route you will see thousands of families, many of whom put chairs and tents out to guard their viewing area days before the two parades. Most every family in Mazatlán has at least one if not several members who have been in comparsas or dancing troupes in the parade, and many proudly have several generations that have run for Queen or King.

While Carnavál no doubt began among the city’s foreign immigrants, it quickly grew to include people from all strata of society and all walks of life. The five main days of Carnavál include four coronations with concerts (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday), two major ocean-side parades (Sunday and Tuesday), a Burning of Bad Humor (firecracker-laced giant piñata on Saturday), a food show, a carnival with rides and games for the kids over by Sam’s Club, and an incredible fireworks spectacular (Saturday). The last few years they’ve also added a Monday night concert, usually banda Sinaloense music. Party central is the Carnavál zone, which this year they are moving several hundred meters north in order to protect the newly rehabbed Olas Altas. Cultura has reported that the party zone will begin at the deer statue in Olas Altas and extend along Paseo Claussen as far as Casa del Marino. There are usually nearly a half-dozen stages or so set up, each with a different kind of live music playing from evening through the wee hours of the morning: tambora or banda sinaloense, los chirrines (ranchera and norteña), boleros, rock, mariachi… you name it. You’ll find lots to eat and drink, and plenty of vendors selling hats, masks, eyelashes, wigs and lighted toys. More importantly, you’ll laugh and dance the night away! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The activities surrounding Carnavál begin months prior to the main events. Candidates for Carnavál royalty are presented in early October, along with the theme for the upcoming year. Aspiring royalty conduct their fund-raising campaigns including parades (manifestaciones) and ballot-counting in October, November and December, while various dance groups or comparsas city-wide also raise funds for costumes and spend lots of time rehearsing their moves. Excitement builds and most everyone in town is involved in some way or another in this máxima fiesta of the year.

A month or so before Carnavál we usually get an unveiling of the monigotes (1, 23) giant sculptures along the malecón and in the Plaza Machado. A couple of weeks before Carnavál there is an official election of the royalty that takes place in the Angela Peralta Theater. A poetry contest (Juegos Florales or “Floral Games”) has been held since 1925, and there is also a literature prize (since 1965) and one for painters as well (since 1996), with the winners celebrated in a Velada de las Artes concert and performance in the Angela Peralta the Friday before Carnavál.

One of my favorite aspects of Carnavál de Mazatlán is that there are queens and kings from every district of the city and every strata of society. Schools and clubs all over town, including community centers with lots of elderly people, choose a queen or king to dance and revel in the parade. I absolutely love cheering on the grandmas and grandpas each year, some of whom are in their 80s and dance the entire parade route. We are also regaled with the anniversary floats—those queens or kings celebrating their 25th or 50th year since being crowned.

While not “official,” there seems to be an annual “song of Carnavál” that most of the dance troupes play over and over again. We kept track for a few years. Back in 2009 it was Te Presumo; we were blessed that Banda El Recodo was the King of Joy that year. In 2010 it was Julión Alvarez’ La María; in 2011 Chuy Lizárraga’s La Peinada; in 2012 Gloria Estéfan’s WEPA; 2013 was Enrique Iglesias with Pitbull on I Like How It Feels. Let me know what you feel were the most popular songs the last few Carnaváls, and I’ll update the list.

The key thing to remember about Carnavál is: You’re in the right place! Carnavál de Mazatlán rocks, there are loads of activities of every type to enjoy, and you will be welcomed with open arms and lots of dance moves.

Tips for Enjoying Carnával De Mazatlán

  1. Buy your tickets to the coronations! These are spectacular, world-class events full of pomp and circumstance as well as pyrotechnics, dancing, music and a concert. Everyone should go to at least one, at least once. I’ve known several tourists who didn’t realize you needed tickets for these major events, but you do.
  2. When you travel to the Carnavál party zone:
    1. Don’t wear clothes or shoes that you don’t want to get dirty; your feet will be stepped on and beer may be spilled on you.
    2. Do not take valuables as the huge crowds tend to bring out pickpockets.
    3. There is a limit the last few years to the number of people permitted into the party zone at any one time. Don’t worry if you wait a while; you will get in eventually, and it’s for safety reasons that they limit entry.
    4. Remember also that in the zone there are so many people that cell phone networks get overloaded. Don’t rely on texting or calling to stay in touch with your group; name a rendezvous spot and time in case you get separated.
  3. If you want to see the spectacular Combate Naval fireworks, which recreates a sea-to-shore battle between Mexico and the French, be prepared to be in a human wave/near-million person crowd of revelers; view it as part of the fun. If you don’t want to stand, make your reservations at a restaurant or grab a seat on the malecón Those living in homes with a view will hold parties, if you’re lucky enough to be invited.
  4. Realize that you cannot attend the coronation of the queen on Saturday AND see the Burning of Bad Humor and Combate Naval fireworks unless you are hugely blessed. The people who do attend all three tend to have official escorts (e.g., royalty and elected officials)! The coronation takes place in the stadium, the fireworks are in Olas Altas, and the traffic in between the two is untenable. You will arrive to slow entry lines and possibly a party zone at maximum capacity. If you plan to see the fireworks, it’s best to attend the other coronations on a different day.
  5. Hotel rooms overlooking the party zone can be fully booked up to two years ahead of time, and quite a few hotels require a three-night minimum during Carnavál. You’ll see that many people set up whole party spaces along the parade route. The city usually puts up bleachers for the public to use, so if you get to the parade early enough, you might be able to find a seat.

Carnavál Fireworks: Behind the Scenes

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Mike Toth on the right, our connection Ted Allen on the left

I just love how social media and blogging work. Somebody commented on one of my photos of this year’s spectacular Combate Naval fireworks, saying, “My friend is down here from Canada helping with the show.” Really? How cool is that?! So I wrote back, “Please introduce us, and I’ll interview the person.”

Turns out that  Mazatlán’s annual fireworks show, put on when Raúl Rico is head of CULTURA by Lux Pirotecnia (Jorge Márquez) of Mexico City, involves not only Canadians but a German expert as well. Want to know the story?

Mike Toth, the gentleman I interviewed, works for Big Bang Fireworks out of Calgary, one of Canada’s top five fireworks outfits, owned by Dan Roy. Mike’s pyrotechnic journey started out like many of us; he lit off backyard fireworks that gradually gained in size and grandeur. Eventually he had to take a one-day safety course and become licensed. That was ten years ago, and he’s been learning on the job ever since. In Canada his fireworks job is pretty much May through September, plus Christmas and New Year’s.

He tells me the crew here are like brothers to him; they have a whole lot of fun together. They stay in touch throughout the year on WhatsApp and Facebook, despite huge language and culture differences. Two of the crew, Mauricio and Ramses, speak English (as do the three team leads), but most do not. Rodrigo comes from Durango: he’s a cowboy through and through, and César is evidently quite the comedian. Mike shared a few snapshots of his visit with me, below. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Mike’s technically not down here in Mazatlán working, but rather on vacation—hanging out with the pyrotechnists who are. But he did bring down with him a bunch of equipment: $40,000 worth, more or less. He brought seven panels and even some modules. Why? Well, fireworks equipment is expensive, especially the computerized kind that syncs music and explosions. Thus, Lux and Big Bang often collaborate in order to pool their resources and put on bigger and better shows.

Jorge (Lux) and Dan (Big Bang) are good friends; Jorge’s equipment often helps out during Canada Day (when Big Bang might have 30-40 shows in one day) or Edmonton Klondike Days (10 straight days of fireworks), and Dan’s equipment supplements shows in México during events on Constitution Day, Independence Day and Carnaval. I love fireworks, I’m all about collaboration, and this story is intercultural, so I find this trifecta of my passions very cool!

dsc_0211How does a fireworks show—our Combate Naval, for example—come to be? Jorge designs the show and its accompanying music and scripts it on paper, indicating the type and size of each firework, it’s color combination and time delay. I’m sure CULTURA is involved in some way at the design phase, too, though of course Mike doesn’t know about that. The shells are fixed into a string of ten or so and then put carefully into mortar tubes. There is no wasted space. Inside is an electric match; when the button is pressed, it launches.

Lux Pirotecnia is responsible for four major shows during Carnavál: the three coronations in the stadium, and the Combate Naval on Saturday night. I forgot to ask Mike about the crowning of the King of Joy. The fireworks are stored on a rancho just north of town.

Combate Naval 2017, for the first time ever, involved five barges; this allowed us to see the fireworks closer than we would if shooting exclusively from a ship in the bay. To me it was a HUGE improvement in the show! Unfortunately, however, one barge flipped over before the show due to the heavy waves. We ended up seeing fireworks from four barges or platforms. The barges are first put into position, then the pyrotechnicians go out in small boats to wire them up and turn them on. There was also a ship out there—yes, a real ship. Mike tells me they set up what looked like a helicopter landing platform on the deck of the ship, and from there the fireworks are launched. The capsized barge was rescued after the show, though of course the fireworks were ruined.

Wide-angle shot of Combate Naval

Wide-angle shot of Combate Naval

The main fireworks panel is just above where the Queen and the VIPs sit: at the Pedro Infante statue. All the music is precisely choreographed to each burst of the show, as we all know and so thoroughly enjoy each year—it’s computerization converting gunpowder into beauty for all our enjoyment.

Just how many people are involved in Mazatlán’s Carnavál-related fireworks? There are the three bosses: Jorge, Juan and David, from Lux. There are ten shell crew members, and ten one-shot crew members. There are also three drivers: two trucks and one van. I get a total of 26 fireworks technicians involved in Carnavál. How much does such a show cost? Again, Mike doesn’t get involved in that, and he can only quote Canadian pricing, which averages $1000/minute.

And where does the German connection come in? That would be Klaus Ulrich, the flame expert. If you attended any of the coronations in the stadium, you felt the heat as the  flames reached from the front of the stage towards the sky. That was Klaus’ work. We also experienced the heat of Klaus’ flames from the barges in the bay during Combate Naval.

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Innovative round or wheel-shaped fireworks: crane wheels, with some of Klaus’ flames coming off two of the barges in the bay.

While I love my photos of multiple bursts at once—sort of the panoramic view, Mike’s favorite photo of mine, he says, is that of the crane wheels. Crane wheels? He explained to me the names for some of the effects that we saw in Mazatlán during Carnavál 2017:

  • The most common fireworks effects are often called by flower names, just as they are in the original Chinese and Japanese:
    • Peony (most common)
    • Chrysanthemum (peony with a spark trail)
    • Dahlia (peony with fewer and larger stars)
  • There are also a couple of effects named after trees, including:
    • Palm: Rising tail that bursts at the top with large tendrils.
    • Weeping willow: long-burning stars in a dome-shaped, weeping willow-like arrangement.
  • Aquatics: fireworks that fly into the water and then blow up. Mike says everyone has them. Jorge’s are 8-inch Kamuro shells: a dense burst of silver or gold stars that leave a glitter trail.
  • Camaros: double dome-shaped weeping willow with twinkles that fall to the water or ground.
  • Crane wheels: a one-shot wheel that can shoot sunbursts or a wheel shape. About one meter round, clamps to a plate. One set of fireworks is set at an angle to rotate the wheel, the others are set for the display.
  • Fountains or Gerbs: a thick-walled tube with a narrowing in the tube that produces a long-lasting jet of sparks. We saw these in the stadium and during the Combate Naval.
  • Horsetails: heavy long-burning fireworks in the shape of a horse tail that only travel a short distance from the shell burst before free-falling as glitter to the ground. They’re also known as a waterfall shell.

    Horsetails over Mazatlán

    Horsetails over Mazatlán

  • Rings: launch into the sky and burst into circles, smiley faces, hearts, clovers…
  • Roman candles: long tubes containing several large stars which fire at regular intervals. This Carnavál they used roman candles up to 4 feet tall anchored to a wooden frame, mostly arranged in fan or crisscross shapes, at close proximity to the audience. We see these on the beach during Combate Naval, and also during the coronations.
  • UFOs: one of my favorites of Combate Naval, the best way I can describe it is a spinning top that launches into the air, leaving a twirling vertical tail. Ours then burst at the top to result in a palm tree-like shape. Mike says that in Canada they usually use a round plastic frame, but here in México it’s bamboo. Bravo for México! Our UFOs had 4 herbs to push up and 4 to rotate.

    Slowly rising fireworks that felt magical and looked like palm trees: UFOs

    Slowly rising fireworks that felt magical and looked like palm trees: UFOs

Below I share some of the terms Mike used during the course of our interview, in case you like getting inside the world of a pyrotechnist as much as I do.

  • One-shot tubes: just like the name sounds.
  • Cake: multiple tubes connected by a fuse. When connected they look like a box.
  • Shells or mortars: during Carnavál we saw 3 to 8 inch shells. They are round and look like bombs, which is probably why, in Spanish, they are called “bombas.”
  • Racks: stands that hold multiple fireworks tubes. These include:
    • Flat racks
    • Half moon racks
  • Panels: the computerized panel of buttons that controls the show.

He explained to me that a firework has a lift charge. The fuse wraps around a ball, and a couple of sticks are timed as fuses. That’s how they set timings. The pyrotechnicians can then launch a firework, it goes into the air with the lift charge, and in four seconds, or six, at the height of its trajectory, the secondary fuse sticks will fire and the effect will explode.

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We all know that here in México people build fireworks. They do so in the USA also. But Mike told me that in Canada it’s against the law to build fireworks! The country’s last firework maker was Hands Company. One of Mike’s dreams is to work in Lux’s shop in Mexico City for a few weeks, so he can have the experience of building fireworks.

Another huge difference that stands out for Mike is, of course, safety. The hand-held bottle rockets that lead every parade in Mazatlán would never be permitted up north, nor would allowing people to sit so closely to the fireworks. He was amazed that people hang their legs off the malecón during the Combate Naval, for example, and loved hearing that people here consider ash burn lucky, just like bird poop. In Canada to launch fireworks you need insurance and permits (which I believe you need here in México as well, at least for the large ones), you have to launch on private property, and you can not shoot fireworks near a lake or river because it upsets the fish. I know fireworks are environmentally hazardous, but they definitely light up my soul.

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July 3, 2016 on the Lake Michigan waterfront in Milwaukee

We love Juan José Ruiz of Mazatlán Fireworks, our local expert. He and his guys put on a beautiful 45-minute show for our wedding anniversary party that thrilled all the kids who got to push the buttons on the panel. Juan José tells me that his firm has often done Carnavál Fireworks, also, but that he tends to be asked to do them when the PRI is in charge of the government.

I got hooked on fireworks as a child in Wisconsin, and deepened my love for them living for over a decade in Japan. Mike told me about a couple of fireworks competitions that I need to add to my bucket list, including GlobalFest in Calgary and Montreal’s L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, the world’s biggest fireworks festival. During my research I also found the Tianguis de Pirotecnia San Pablito Tultepec, which is coming up March 4-11 right here in México—we all remember seeing video of the huge explosion in a warehouse there last December. Frequent winners of the international competitions are, of course, Disney, and also Zambelli Fireworks out of Pennsylvania.

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Fireworks over Lake Tichigan, Wisconsin, July 2, 2016

Next time you attend a fireworks show, stop and think about all of the people, time, preparation and work involved in delivering the performance you are enjoying. You just might find yourself appreciating the spectacle even more!

Loads of Pics of Carnavál Parades 2015

DSC_0711 - Version 2We absolutely LOVE the Carnavál parades every year. There is nothing better than a bunch of Mazatlecos in good humor, with their dancing shoes on and ready to party! Everyone from toddlers to grandparents get in on the fun. Mazatlán’s first Carnavál was 117 years ago (1898), and 2015’s parades had 31 floats. Dance troupes from studios and schools all over town participate in our parades. I love all the youthful exuberance and excitement as these kids, who’ve rehearsed for months and raised money for costumes, get their big day in the limelight. It is a city tradition, involving at some point in time nearly every family in town, it seems. I enjoy watching them in the parades, and also as they put on their makeup, chat, eat and warm up prior to the parades. I especially love the young couples in love. Here are just a few of my favorite Carnavál faces of 2015’s parades. Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow (highly recommended).

The parade on Sunday had 300,000 spectators, not to mention those on Tuesday! The city supplied free bleachers with 15,000 seats this year, making Carnavál fun accessible to more people.

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Most of the people in our condo building prefer to watch the parade from the pool deck. From there they can take photos of whole floats, with the bay and the sunset in the background. We prefer our annual street-side party, where we can cheer on the dancers and join with them when they invite us to do so. It’s great fun! Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow.

This year the pre-parade came round and we all caught beads, hats, t-shirts and other gadgets. The main parade, however, was well over an hour late. It started fairly on time; we saw the fireworks. But then it stopped. We waited. We drank and danced. We talked with our neighbors and friends. We enjoyed the clowns and vendors passing by, and the families and kids playing in the street. And we wondered what had happened to the parade.

It seems a generator failed on one of the floats, and it took quite a while to get it functioning. Also, a huge group of people were blocking the parade route, and the police had to restore order to the scene. Finally, about 8:00 pm, the first parade reached us.

The theme this year, “Dreams of Momo,” the god of merriment, was interpreted as one of fantasy and mystery, including a variety of entries such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, dragons, fairies, Indian goddesses, unicorns, a Medusa-like octopus, China, Japan, Egypt, and Native American chieftains.

As you know, Maestro Rigo Lewis, who designed our royal floats for over 50 years, passed away last year. This year of course was a transition year. I’m afraid it was a rather disappointing one. The royal floats were not nearly as regal, intricate, realistic or impressive as we have grown used to—no one gasped or said “wow” like they usually do. We have been told by some of the designers that CULTURA was afraid of losing Rigo’s legacy, so they wouldn’t let them create freely, but rather had them attempt to honor his baroque style. On the other hand, we’ve heard and read that CULTURA is eager to forge a more modern, minimalist style of floats.

All I can say is, I hope the outcome is better next year. The regular floats were uneven; some were really quite cool, and some looked like they were put together by high schoolers. For the first time ever, some of the commercial pre-parade floats were better than those in the main parade! We saw plain, undecorated iron rods and scaffolding; generators right in the middle of floats, blocking the view of key elements; floats that were very obviously made for third-story rather than street viewing, which ruins the whole tradition in Mazatlán of a street party and caters to the privileged; floats such as that of Momo that were so plain as to be embarrassing; people showing through sheer fabric on the floats when we weren’t supposed to see them; lights that were too direct and overbearing; and floats that had so many elements to them that there was no viewing angle from which you could see the main points clearly. All in all, the floats were not up to the standard that CULTURA has set for us. But, it is a transition year, and we can hope that 2016 will be better than ever.

There were quite a few LED floats, which we saw the first time a few years ago in the children’s parade on Monday night. This year, there was no children’s parade, nor were there fireworks on the malecón on Monday night. We really missed this, as did tens of thousands of Mazatlecos and tourists. The Espinoza Paz concert in Olas Altas was great, but not a replacement for a family-friendly, easily accessible and free-of-charge activity like the parade and fireworks.

Want to know one of the best parts of the pre-parade on the second day? A bunch of girls in one of the comparsas spotted Espinoza Paz dining in a sushi shop just down the street from us. Check out the hysteria that ensued:

In the end, it was a TERRIFIC couple of parades, with everyone feeling joyful and happy. Beautiful community-building was had by all. Complaining that some of the floats weren’t up to the incredibly high standards set in previous years doesn’t diminish the unbelievable wonder of the event. Thank you, Mazatlán, CULTURA, dancers, and everyone involved!

Annual Schedule for Carnavál de Mazatlán

Those of us who are privileged to live in Mazatlán either look forward to Carnavál as the best event all year, or hightail it out of town as the tourists pour in to enjoy this most wonderful event. Carnavál here is a festival of the people. Teenagers rehearse their dance moves for months, and joyfully don their costumes for the big parade days. There are events for children, for adults, and for the whole family to enjoy. Each year the party zone includes dozens of live bands playing each of the six nights of Carnavál, plus four main concerts/coronations.

Each of the coronations involves the pomp and circumstance of the coronation itself, dance performances and music, a concert by a major national or international performer, and a gorgeous fireworks show. Attendance at at least one if not several of these is a must!

The schedule of the main events for Carnavál doesn’t change year-to-year, although the dates do. In 2015 Carnavál de Mazatlán is February 12th through 17th. It is always the six days prior to Ash Wednesday.

PLEASE NOTE: In 2015 on Monday night it appears there will NOT be a second fireworks show on the malecón as in prior years, but instead a concert by Espinoza Paz in the Olas Altas party zone at 10 pm.

In the past, I’ve published a schedule to help people remember what happens when and where. In this age of infographics, it’s now possible for me to create and share one with you. I hope you’ll print it off for easy reference, and that it will help you plan your very busy and fun-filled week! If you click on the infographic below, it’ll take you to a page where you’ll see it larger, and you can view it even larger again in “presentation mode” on the upper left of that screen. This is my first time to make an infographic, so thank you for helping learn to do it as well as possible.

Don’t forget that we have loads of posts about past Carnavál events, as well as numerous videos on the VidaMaz YouTube channel. Here’s the infographic; please share it around!

See you at Carnavál!

Carnaval Schedule 2015

 

 

Día de los Muertos, Mazatlán 2014

La Pareja: Together in life and death

La Pareja: Together in life and death

What a welcome home! The callejoneada (alley parade) this year for Day of the Dead in Mazatlán was the best ever, if I dare say so! It was a perfect evening weather-wise: clear skies highlighted by a gorgeous crescent moon, and warm weather that was cool enough for comfort. More people and especially more complete families participated, more dressed up, the beer flowed more freely and was better organized, and the main costumed characters were spectacular!

This year’s event was a tribute to Maestro Rigo Lewis, the long-time creator of our unbelievably gorgeous Carnavál carrozas/floats, so the callejoneada for Day of the Dead had a Carnavalesque air to it this year; it was a beautiful fusion of two local traditions for which Mazatlán has international fame. Kudos and thanks to CULTURA and to the Centro Municipal de Arte staff and students! By the way, I’ve been told we will STILL this year AND next year in the Carnavál parade will have carrozas designed by Maestro Rigo! His legacy lives on, thanks to his hard work and passion.

Click on any of the images below to see it larger or to view a slideshow.

I am sorry to have been so long away from this page, but after seven years it was wonderful to reconnect this summer with family and friends north of the border in a lengthier, more meaningful way. We were able to celebrate my aunt’s 80th birthday, be with my sister-cousin through surgery, and settle Danny into his dorm room and college life. For that I am ever grateful! Plus I had a month of work in Europe, where I met incredible people and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Of course we missed home, and our friends and family here, terribly.

Saturday night felt like our personal welcome home party, as we hugged loved ones everywhere we went. Funniest, to me, was how often I had to ask, “Who are you?” as the costumes were so excellent that they disguised identities quite effectively!

I can’t imagine not dancing in the parade with the live music, if one is able to do so, as it is just so much fun! There are, however, many people who line the route to watch and enjoy, as well as those who camp out at front-row-seats in bars and restaurants to watch the parade pass by.

Life in the Plaza Machado after the callejoneada was a sight to behold as well. I unfortunately can’t tell you anything about the event inside the theater, as though we waited in line at the Machado for about 90 minutes to get tickets, they ran out long before it was our turn.
We met one woman who was here in town to celebrate her 50th birthday, all the way from Washington DC with two of her best girlfriends. They obviously brought complete Day of the Dead costumes with them for their holiday! We saw store-bought costumes, handmade costumes, traditional and modern versions, and fortunately there were many of us who were still alive and un-costumed to enjoy the rest!
My absolute favorite moment of the evening, and there were so many awesome ones to choose from, was as the callejoneada entered the plazuela. Just in front of the theater, a group of young men started cheering loudly, dancing and jumping around. “Güero! “Güero!” they were shouting. As I turned around to see what all the happy commotion was about, I realized they were cheering on my partner, Greg. He was dancing happily, having been soaked with beer head to toe earlier in the evening.
31.DSC_0378Guero!
CULTURA TV is going to stream it’s video of the callejoneada this Wednesday, November 5, at 5:00 pm local time. Be sure to check it out! There are many more aspects of Day of the Dead in Mazatlán; the callenjoneada is just one activity. This blog post can give you a broader idea for your trip. I know my favorites include making an altar to remember my departed family members and friends, as well as remembering them in Mass each year. We hope you’ll join us so we can dance with you all next year!