Friday, February 20, 2009

The Parade-athon: ¡Carnaval Time In Mérida!

It is Carnaval time in Mérida! According to the Yucatán Today, “Carnaval is to Mérida what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans and Río de Janeiro.” This year’s theme is Carnaval de Cínema. It is all about the movies. Carnaval runs the week prior to lent; this year from February 18th through the 25th.

“Mérida’s Carnaval is one of the five most important in the entire Mexican republic and one of the 12 principal Carnavals in all of Latin America…. Carnaval in general is a time of fun and excesses with its parades, music and dancing, and food and beer consumption.” (Yucatán Today, 2/18/09)

On Weds the 18th, the fiesta began with the Burning of Bad Moods. A big bonfire was built in the main plaza where a life sized stuffed doll was burned, representing the elimination of bad moods and humor. (I was in a bad mood and I didn’t attend.)

Thurs the 19th presented the first of several parades: The Children’s Parade. This one is made up of toddlers and pre-schoolers in costumes. It is the shortest parade, but definitely the cutest. (I did not go…..Hey! One can only consume so much beer!)

Tonight, Friday the 20th, is the Corso Parade. Starting with this one we will attend them all! The beer is served in liter sized plastic memorabilia cups. My guess is the supersized cups will have the cartoonish festival logo PLUS a buxom woman in a teeny bikini. Carnaval requires the presence of lots of barely clad beautiful women, and seems to have a fair share of femininely clad men too! This is the first of the longer parades full of floats, free stuff they throw from floats, costumes, dance groups, music and beer. I plan to post photos mañana. (By using this term instead of ‘tomorrow’, it buys me more time in case I drink too many cervezas tonight! We all know that mañana simply means NOT today!)

Sat evening the 21st offers the second and slightly higher energy Fantasy Parade. On the corners of the long parade route bandstands are set up and a variety of artists perform live on the radio. It is fun to walk down Paseo de Montejo and check out the different kinds of music, and of course stop for a beer and a dance or two.

Sunday’s events begin at noon with the Bachata Parade. Meridanos like to dance in the street every Sunday, so this one brings lots of families from outlying areas into town with their coolers and folding chairs. The streets are one big party.

Monday night the 23rd will be the Traditional Regional Night Parade. This one is special because the colorful costumes are replaced by the beautiful traditional Yucatecan styles. Ladies will be decked out in their huipiles, and the men in the traditional white shirts, pants and leather sandals. Even the aluxes (Mayan fairy dwarfs) and Xtabay (Beautiful Mayan spirits that lure men to their death) will be playing with and teasing the audience. Can’t miss this one!

Tuesday the 24th brings the final parade, called simply The Mardi Gras . It is known to us as Fat Tuesday. The parade starts at noon. (Oh man the traffic, I can see it now……….maybe the businesses all just close down!? The streets are all closed that is for sure, I wish I could print the street closures and bus route changes from the newspaper, it is an amazing maze. But that would be obsessive. My reading and mapping the parade routes was obsessive enough I think. Especially since I refuse to drive anywhere this week!) Also called the Battle of Flowers Parade, this is the day when the beat and rhythm of the music will vibrate all of Mérida like one million giant boom boxes!

Weds the 25th is Ash Wednesday and in the evening in the central plaza they will bury Juan Carnaval during the week’s final event. The Carnaval queen, dressed in mourning clothes, reads his eulogy and the Meridanos will spend the next six weeks trying to get the taste and smell of beer out of their clothes and their bodies.

Last year I was busy with dysfunctional houseguests (This is my first major understatement of the new year!) that disrupted our lives a bit during Carnaval and we didn’t get a chance to really give it a lot of energy. We went to one parade. I drank too much beer and made an ass of myself out in the street with my arms outstretched trying to catch whatever they threw from the floats. I had three faux-leather cell phone covers, many strings of beads, several beer cups loaded with candies and product samples, a drink stirrer that lights up and flashes, beer can coozies, feathers in my hair, or was it a tiara… tell you the truth that is all I remember. I remember walking home about 40 blocks and several liters of SOL beer sloshing around in my distended stomach.

This ends the first annual official pre-Carnaval report. I will admit right here that my itinerary description is taken nearly word for word from Yucatán Today's article, but I stopped referencing it above after the second quote I used. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t change their wording, their article was so well written. So I will just say I added a few comments to a very informative report from our local guide book and online service, and not take credit for writing much of this post myself.

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