We returned home from a trip south just in time to enjoy Carnaval 2018! We avoided the weekend crowds by busying ourselves with after vacation chores like unpacking, laundry, and grocery shopping. This worked out well for Steve- -as it meant Carnaval shenanigans would happen during the week, when he would be working. So truthfully, I returned home in time for Carnaval!
Guaymas’ Carnaval celebration is one of the oldest in Mexico, dating back to 1888. As a port city, Guaymas was home to many immigrants and visitors from Europe. A Carnaval, similar to those held in Europe, was their idea. Participation was for the most part limited to the upper classes. After the Mexican Revolution, Guaymas embraced Carnaval as its own, and participation opened up to include everyone. The event always begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and runs until midnight the following Tuesday, or the start of Lent.
A parade is held each afternoon/evening. (Based on my Guaymas parade experience, it is definitely an evening event. But it is best to get there in the afternoon just in case it starts at the scheduled afternoon time.) There are rides on the malecón, concerts, poetry readings, plays, games, lots of good food, and souvenirs to buy.
During the day one celebration a Reina del Carnaval and Rey Feo are crowned. There is also the “Quema de Mal Humor” (Burning of the Bad Humor). This year’s honor went to PASA, the city garbage collection agency. PASA was on strike during the month of December, leaving trash to pile up in the city and its surrounding areas. In spite of the inconvenience (and smell and eyesore) this caused, many were hoping that Enrique Peña Nieto, Guaymas mayor, Lorenzo DeCima, or Donald Trump had been selected instead.
Some friends and I decided that Carnaval would be the perfect time to try public transportation for the first time. We knew the main avenue into el Centro would be closed off to traffic for the parade, and parking would be a challenge. We had been a bit intimidated by the bus previously, certain we would make mistakes or get lost. We found fellow passengers and the bus drivers to be incredibly helpful. We were dropped two blocks from where we planned on watching the parade and discovered a new bakery/café on our walk! And given that I am writing this now, the trip home was equally as successful!
The parade was a little delayed, but we filled our time shopping for masks and people
watching. Several women made cascarones and sold them in packages of five for five pesos. Children loved breaking them over the heads of their parents. Actually, they enjoyed breaking them over the heads of anyone nearby! We were confetti bombed multiple times by the small children (and abuelitas) sitting near us. We had stocked up ourselves, so we made sure to return the favor. Nothing brings strangers closer together quite like confetti!
The parade was a marvel of sights and sounds. Marching and mariachi bands entertained the onlookers. Loud music blasted from speakers, providing the rhythms for the colorfully costumed dancers. And the crowd. The abuelitas loved to dance with the handsome, young parade participants! The floats were big and bold, a true testament to the time and energy it took to prepare for this event. Candy, stuffed animals, and confetti were launched from the floats into the crowd. The crowd gave it right back spraying Silly String and throwing cascarones! One brave youngster even sprayed a police officer with Silly String as he helped clear the parade route before the show began!
After the parade, we walked along the malecón. Crowds stood in line for roller coasters, spidery spinners, and inflatables. Children enjoyed crafts and magicians. The smells of delicious food hung in the air: pancakes con Nutella o fresas, churros, Cheetos con chamoy, elote, tacos, and hotdogs. As we sat down to rest a moment on the seawall, one of our group discovered an unopened, ice cold cerveza, seemingly left there just for her. (This, of course, necessitated a stop in the five peso port a potty before the bus ride home.)
It is experiences like this one that make up my very favorite Mexico memories. (Yes, that even includes paying to use the bathroom and waiting an hour and a half for a parade to start.) Living here has taught me so much about finding joy in the moment and letting myself be amazed by the little things. The little things are the big things. Go ahead! Break a cascarón over a friend’s head. You will know exactly what I mean.