Carnival in Mazatlan (February 2017)
By Metty Pellicer
I might as well check out this carnaval, while I am nearby in Los Mochis, I tell myself after finding out about it while researching my trip to the Barrancas del Cobre. It is said to be the biggest in Mexico, and the largest in the world, celebrated on the week before Lent, from Wednesday until Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. I’ve been to New Orleans, and the huge spectacle of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, so I have to check this out.
Unlike Rio which has become an extravaganza for the tourists and super expensive, beyond the affordability of ordinary cariocas, this one in Mazatlan feels authentic and beguiling in its homespun flavor. It remains a festival for the people and by the people, and it is a town party held on the thirteen-mile malecon, with the grand first parade on Sunday and the second on Mardi Gras, starting at the historic center and disbanding at the Zona Dorada. The floats are elaborate, and takes five hours to travel along the malecon, which is lined with revelers all the way. Also,the malecon is decorated by giant papier-mâché figures, of clowns, dragons, and monsters. Free live bands play every night from several stages at the Olas Altas and everyone dances with anybody on the malecon. The party is free but there is a check point where men are frisked for weapons and women’s bags inspected. Police is visible and the crowd is happy but well behaved. Children are up late shooting glow toys in the air. Whole families including abuelas and babies are in attendance, and eating street food dispensed from push trolleys. Meanwhile young men and women come to the party bringing their supply of Tecate beer kept cold in styrofoam containers. A few are costumed but I suspect they are tourists who have a preconceived notion of how to dress for a carnaval. Those in the know, the natives, come as they are but they do party, dancing and singing with the bands and having a terrific time. None of the near naked exhibitionist as in Rio or New Orleans.
There are several queens selected competitively and I went to the crowning of the Queen of the Carnaval, at the stadium. The sports venue is transformed into a theater where a spectacular crowning pageant is presented. It is over the top, with elaborate costumes, dance numbers with aerial and contortionist choreography, and props with the carnival theme of dragones and alebrijes, the latter the Oaxacan fantasy monsters. The queen enters in a magnificent chariot and later borne high above the stage where she sits on her throne with the runner ups in attendance at her side like ladies in waiting. There are fireworks and drum riffs announcing her entrance, so poundingly dramatic and impressive. The crowning honors is done by a high government official, the city mayor?, I forget. There is an intermission after the crowning, then Gloria Trevi, the Mexican Madonna, opens her concert in the second half of the show, with a rousing Gloria and everyone gets on its feet dancing and singing. She has an ignominious past for real, did time in jail, but is forgiven by her fans and remains popular. Madonna’s real life is boring by comparison. Great show, very energetic, like a Beyoncé or Tina Turner. Great audience. The young women beauty queens are very unassuming and super nice. I barge in on their photo shoot and they gladly pose with me for my souvenir picture.
Te next day I left for Los Mochis to embark on the Chihuahua Ferrocarrel to visit the Barrancos del Cobre, the Copper Canyons.