Monday, February 23, 2015

Carnaval!!!! -- Mazatlan -- February 12 - 17, 2015

Mazatlan's pre-Lenten celebration is reported to be the third largest in the world, and though we have  have not celebrated Carnaval in Rio or Mardis Gras in New Orleans we do not doubt the estimate that 600,000 people participated in this year's Carnaval revelries in Mazatlan. In fact we're pretty sure we bumped into about half of them on the nights we waded into the throng. 

Travel Tip: If you don't like crowds or are agoraphobic, one way to view Carnaval is to rent a hotel room along the Malecon (the walking path along the ocean and site of the three biggest public events) and watch from the comfort of your balcony. Of course you may want to rent a second hotel room somewhere else in town for sleeping purposes . . . the party lasts waaaay into the night.

Viewing From Above The Throng
Daytime View From The Malecon

But in Mazatlan the pre-midnight crowds are relatively tame and there is a huge police presence, so unless your mental health needs dictate otherwise, go ahead and join in the fun at street level!


About three weeks before the beginning of Carnaval eleven monigotes were erected along the malecon. These fantastical - and gigantic - wire and papier mache statues are the creations of Jorge Gonzales Neri, an artist from Monterrey.  They are each about 25 feet high and weigh almost a ton. 

Monigotes have been part of the last ten Carnavales. This year's monigotes (various translations include "puppets" and "rag dolls") were designed around the theme for the 2015 Carnaval - "El Suenos de Momo" (Dreams of Momus).  Momus (Momo in Spanish) is the Greek god of laughter, madness and joy and Maestro Neri's monigotes are very appropriate to the theme. 

We got pictures of a few of them:

Another charming aspect of the monigotes is that they are intended to be impermanent. In March they will be taken down and put in a yard near the ship terminal to disintegrate in the sun.

The "Naval Battle"

On Saturday night we (Bryce, Molly and Jodi Rafkin our visitor from Portland, Oregon) attended the fireworks display commemorating the defense of Mazatlan against an attempted French invasion in 1864. The day before we had secured seats at a restaurant along the Olas Altas portion of the malecon - the Blue Smoke BBQ restaurant. 

Travel Tip: The Blue Smoke was a good place for a meat fix and to watch the fireworks. For 300 pesos each (approx. $22 USD) the restaurant provided a table and chairs, a raised viewing platform, a 100 peso meal credit (the meal cost about 75 pesos more than the credit) and - key to happiness at any mass-public event - a non-public bathroom. There was even a person to watch our jackets while we went walk about. Granted, there wasn't a roof over the restaurant and there was a fairly steady drizzle during part of the evening . . . but it all worked out. 

Prior to the fireworks was an event called El Quema de Mal Humor (the Bad Humor Burning). This is where an effigy of someone that has really, really annoyed the people of Mazatlan is put to the flame on the Olas Altas beach. This year there were two effigies, representing the former mayor of the town of Iguala (Jose Luis Abarca) and his wife (Maria de los Angeles Pineda). 

[Background: The former mayor and his wife are currently in custody, charged with mass kidnapping. The allegations are that, last September, the mayor ordered the Iguala municipal police to take 43 protesting trainee teachers into custody to prevent a speech being given by his wife from being disrupted. The police allegedly turned the students over to a local drug gang that had close ties to the police. To date the remains of only one of the students has been identified. The remainder are still missing. They are presumed dead.]

Due to the general confusion of the evening we did not see the burning of these effigies - but we can't think of a more appropriate set of effigies to burn for the purpose of removing bad feelings from a celebration.

The aforementioned general confusion began as we passed through the heavy police presence to enter the area of the celebration. Bryce had to join an enormous line of men because the male members of the public that entered the celebration area were sent through a metal detector and patted down (one metal detector + thousands of male attendees = huge delays). Jodi and Molly sailed through the women's entry gate without a second look. Apparently if one has a desire to smuggle something nefarious into the Carnaval area it would be best to ask a female friend to do the deed.

Sadly, once we met up at The Blue Smoke we realized we had misunderstood the directions to the bad mood burning and that the mayor and his wife had already been - symbolically - set to the flame. So we enjoyed our BBQ and wandered among the crowd before the fireworks began. 

The event was everything we have come to expect from a Mexican celebration.

The Sponsor Was Well Represented: 

Pacifico beer is brewed in Mazatlan, and can be found everywhere. The company is a big sponsor of Carnaval celebrations and only Pacifico was found at Carnaval!

Pacifico - The Beer Out Here

There Were Mexican Entrepreneurs Everywhere:

Forgot Your Mask? No Problem!

Gotta Sweet Tooth? We Can Fix That!

Feeling An Urge To Wear Pink Hair?
Or Orange Hair? Got That, Too!

Or Perhaps A Hat?

There Was Music:

We counted six stages of enthusiastic Banda performers during our walking tour - which covered only half of the celebration area.

And the live bands competed now and then with recorded music -- and dancers!  Kermato is a spicy tomato juice and beer mix . . .). Bryce began to crave tomato juice and beer . . . 

The Kermato Girls! 

The Fireworks Were Spectacular:

The Blue Smoke BBQ was very close to one of the several fireworks launching sites and we had big sparklers bursting above us - literally right above us. We have been closer to fireworks during our time in Mexico but these were somehow more . . . 

. . . enveloping

Very cool.

Back of the Blue Smoke Sign

And We Managed To Get Home:

When the fireworks were over we joined hundreds of thousands in the salmon-like process of leaving the area while at the same time hundreds of thousands of the young and flashily dressed were attempting to enter the area (30 pesos, 6+ bands - it was the place to be for the late-night dancing crowd). Families and retirees out - late night revelers in. 

Once we were squeezed out of the packed street leading away from/to the Carnaval area we attempted, among the scrum, to find an empty cab to take us to our car which we had parked some four miles away. Eventually we decided to walk away from the Carnaval area to a hotel and wait for a cab dropping off people who had been smart enough to pre-arrange or call for a cab. This "plan" eventually worked - we didn't lose each other or get in a fight with anyone over a cab, and we got to our car before our feet gave out entirely. Some two miles of walking and an hour of waiting later . . . 

Carnaval Parade

Jodi also joined us, along with friends Ron and Fran from Calliope, on our second foray into the world of mass entertainment: the second of the two Carnaval parades, held on the Tuesday before Lent. 

Once again we were joined by several hundred thousand of our fellow Mazatlecas many of whom were clever enough to bring chairs to place along the malecon. We, not so resourceful, were able to find a curb that gave us a few inches of viewing elevation - but mostly we relied on Bryce being much taller than the average Mexican for purposes of picture taking.

Walking toward the malecon we met up with a group of mermaids waiting to join the parade:

Mermaid Dance Troupe

Once we were in place we were entertained by our fellow parade watchers:

Pacifico Balloon Warriors

Then came the police, clearing the crowd from the parade route:

Who Wouldn't Obey Guys In Balaclavas? 

And then came the parade:

There Were Spectacular Floats:

Some of the floats celebrated other cultures -- but sometimes in ways that might not be considered appropriate in the U.S. or Canada:

And Spectacular Floats Carrying Carnival Queens 
and Beauty Queens:

There was a float carrying the Carnaval Queen, one for the Carnaval Child Queen and another float for random beauty queens, including several from across the border (Miss Barstow!).  

And Molly's favorite beauty queen floats - those carrying the Jovenes de Corazone! These floats carried beauties of a certain age, giving Molly the ambition to work her way onto a Carnaval float in her next decade 

There Were Dance Troupes:

    And Dancers:

Including Wiggling Girls . . .

. . . Wiggling Boys . . .

. . . And Wiggling Couples!

And Finally, Una Charra y Charros:

The charros rode on beautiful horses on silver covered saddles. The charra that led the group was dressed spectacularly. The caballos danzantes (dancing horses) performed to the music. A very Mexico moment.

Not all of us made it through the whole parade:

But the five of us did - and from there headed to F.I.S.H. for some great fish tacos.  Viva Carnaval!


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