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 Culture & Traditions

The Carnivals of Mexico

Life is a carnival and we must keep singing…

by Oscar Guzmán

One of the most important times of the Catholic calendar is almost upon us: Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Catholics begin to prepare for the Easter celebration with prayers, small sacrifices of our favorite things , and personal reflection. This is also the time of year when Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays, which is why many people organize a symbolic goodbye party for the meat…”Carne Vai”, the carnival.

Ancient Venice was where this tradition began, in which the people who attended the carnival mingled in a party where all the things that generate memorable moments were present: music, dancing, costumes, and all the things that are set aside during the Lenten season.

The festive tradition arrived to our country toward the end of the 19th century; hence, the beginning of the carnivals. And it was precisely in the port of Veracruz, a land known for crazy parties, where the Veracruzanos celebrated the first mask dance in 1866, during the empire of Maximilian. And although the parties were supposed to be held in the principle social salons, the theater, and the “Aduana Quemada”, the celebrations began expanding until they reached the streets. This expansion led to parades, and finally, in 1925, the first committee was formed to organized the Carnival of the Port of Veracruz.

Today, people celebrate the passing of the “comparsas” — groups of people at the carnival who are dressed in the same costume and mask. These celebrations precede the “Martes de Carnaval” (Fat Tuesday), which is the biggest day of the carnival. Lighted-up, decorated cars roam the streets of the city, and the happy king (it used to be the “ugly” king) and queen of the carnival are crowned. Musicians ride on the top of carriages and dance to the music. Meanwhile, students from dance schools, in a very Brazilian-style, dance to African rhythms, mainly samba, merengue and salsa.

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