It’s Carnaval Time!

BY: By one

Are you ready for Carnaval? Confetti flies and swirls everywhere, streamers in bright colors float by. Happy voices shout greetings to each other and the sounds of trumpets are pervasive.  Vibrant costumes, too many to even take them all in, pulsate by as merrymakers dance past in the streets.  There is pounding Latin music bouncing off the buildings, past the early hours and towards the coming of dawn. If you listen closely you can distinguish mambo, samba, salsa, norteño, reggae and rock’n roll beats. The people need energy, so they pause to catch their breath and to sample the delicious roasted corn on the cob, deep-fried churros, steamed tamales, and grilled carne asada whose aromas fill the air. This is the most fun that Rosarito and Ensenada will have all year.  Yes indeed, once again it’s time for Carnaval, the Mexican Mardi Gras!

The word Carnaval literally means “farewell to meat”.  Carnaval in Latin countries is an annual event that takes us back to a period of excessive permissiveness, allowed by the Catholic Church immediately prior to Lent.  Traditionally Lent is the 40 days of fasting and self denial (often observed without the eating of meat), before Easter Sunday. But this type of celebration can be traced back to early pre-Christian rites marking the beginning of spring, the renewal of life, and the regeneration of nature.

In Mexico the first Carnaval festivities were held in the mid 1800s in the towns of Mazatlan, Veracruz and Salina Cruz. It’s said that a seafaring captain from Mazatlan brought Carnaval to Ensenada in the 1890s. However, the first officially organized celebration did not occur in the port of Ensenada until 1918. Actually the first queen of the Ensenada Carnaval was a man!  It was “La Señorita Luz Caballero” and the event was dubbed “The Carnaval of the Borracho” (drunk), because a funny guy well known in Ensenada dressed up as the Carnaval queen and drove around in a car acting as the queen.

Many cities around the world, especially in all Latin countries, have Carnival as well ,(spelled with an “i”),. Most of these are influenced by the traditions prior to the beginning of Lent.  Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday and hence the day before has become known as “Fat Tuesday” in which mild excess is encouraged and enjoyed.  Some cities, most notably New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, have famously made this celebration into more like the Saturnalia or Bacchanalia of old Roman times, in which unbridled sexual excess was the norm.  However, there will be no bare breasts in Rosarito or Ensenada.

This year Carnaval will take place in both Rosarito and Ensenada from the 12th through the 17th of February, and each day has its own special flavor and events.  More than 50,000 people are expected to participate over the course of the six days in Rosarito, but Ensenada takes the prize for hearty partiers, expecting between 500,000 and 600,000 people to join the highlight of the year.

Each year there is an overall theme to Carnaval and this time it is mythological heroes.  The theme gives the revelers a focus for their costumes and for planning the events.  Both cities have planned the same events at the same times, inviting organizations, schools, civil associations, companies, art and sports groups, and city delegations to shoot off fireworks, put on shows by dance troupes, build floats, drive parades of classic cars and trucks, provide horse back and camel rides, and hold the main festival parades.

For Rosarito the events and parades will all begin at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, move from south to north along Benito Juarez Blvd. and end up in the Plaza San Fernando. Each day will see its special event. 

Thursday the 12th.   This is the start of Carnival 2015 Rosarito. At 4:00 PM the festival will kick off with three different types of musical events. Then at 8:00 the very traditional Burning of Bad Humor will take place. An effigy of a character who has participated in a negative way by performing “facts and actions that hinder progress in the city” will be burned.  This is always fun.  At 9:00 the main event of the evening occurs with the coronation of the Carnaval king and queen and the selection of their royal courts. The tradition of selecting a Carnaval king and queen has been around since the first Carnaval.  Youngsters will be similarly honored when the child queen and king are crowned. There is also a contest for el rey feo, (the ugly king), of Carnaval to join the royal court. They are chosen by popular vote.

Friday the 13th.     The fun starts at 4:00 with more musical presentations. Then the first parade of floats and costumed revelers takes place immediately following, along with a parade of classic cars up boulevard Benito Juarez from south to north ending again in Plaza San Fernando.

Saturday the 14th.      Musicians perform and artistic presentations mark the beginning of the third day of the festivities.  The official coronation ceremony of the king and queen of Carnaval 2015 is the highlight of this day.  They will ascend their thrones at a coronation ball on Saturday evening.  At 10:00 a gala fireworks display is presented by the Carnaval managers and then people dance and continue celebrating until the early morning hours.

Sunday the 15th.    More musical and artistic presentations are performed. The main, or second, parade advances up Benito Juarez and again ends in Plaza San Fernando which is the site of the event’s headquarters.

Monday the 16th.     Monday is known as hen-pecked or oppressed husband day, when men are given 23 ½ hours of freedom to enjoy at their own risk. The dance of the oppressed husband is always a lot of fun and hilarity.  There is also an awards ceremony for the children’s drawing competition. And again music and artistic presentations carry on until the early morning hours

Fat Tuesday the 17th.      This is the last chance for people to parade their costumes and floats. The traditional grand finale of Carnaval is the gala masquerade-ball on Tuesday night when the most original costumes will receive trophies and awards amid cries of surprise and excitement.  After this, people get ready for the start of Lent and the preparations for Ash Wednesday.

This year promises to be one of the finest Carnavals this area has ever seen.  We hope you will attend and enjoy it in either Rosarito or Ensenada.