Cozumel Carnival a 143-year tradition of fun and fantasy
By: Playa Mia Grand Beach & Water Park / 23 Feb 2017
Facts and tips of a 143-year tradition of fun and fantasy.
An old, old tradition. A hint of history
On his way to conquer the Aztec Empire, Cortés, the Hispanic explorer, never imagined that a brief stopover on the island was going to be enough to bring to an end a busy Mayan pilgrimage center for fertility goddess Ixchel. In less than 40 years, smallpox, brought by Cortés army, erase population on the island. It eventually became a hideaway for pirates and buccaneers until 1848 when 29 Spanish families from Yucatan came to settle and thrive on the island. 26 years later, in 1874, the very first known mention of the carnival party on Cozumel appears in the travel memories of Mr. Claude Luther Goodrich Noble, printed in Missouri USA. This likely means Carnival tradition were born with the very beginning of Cozumel modern history.
Cozumel Carnival is among the 3 best carnivals in Mexico, however, it is one of the best in terms of carnivalesque thematic as other ancient carnivals in central Mexico are rather oriented to remember historic events of the Mexican independence or war battles.
Cozumel is the only Mexican Carnival member of the Caribbean Carnival Network to share research, experiences and a virtual museum.
The island festivity is pretty well-consolidated thanks to its organization and integration of the society. As Mr. Luther once wrote about Cozumel: "All Classes and ages are fond of music, dancing, gambling a little… (and) innocent revelry … (all is part of) the parade and pomp of the Carnival." (Goodrich, C. L. Travel Memories, Powell & Maynard, USA, 1874).
Carnival is the most expected event of the year, costume and dancing contests and prizes urge families, children, youngsters and persons with disabilities, to participate; everyone is welcomed. No doubt, Cozumel carnival is a cornerstone of local identity.
"Cozumel carnival is a cornerstone of local identity."
The good times start rolling way ahead
Despite the fact, pre-carnival takes a month and actual carnival lasts a week, the "parade and pomp" starts long before. Designing costumes, float decoration, and choreographies, take months before they become a reality. Some of the most well-reputed krewes start working on it as early as august. By November krewes rehearsal their choreographies. An unruly cacophony covers the town; relentless drums seem to be all over.
By late November, local authorities and the Carnival Organization Board release a calendar and the rules to participate for candidates officially register their participation to one of the different contests and categories. Before Christmas, every candidate, wrapped in showy costumes, is presented to the audience in a formal ball.
Afterwards, campaigning involves a creative, warm and fierce full competence among contenders through dances and shows along the multiple events orbiting the carnival. Traditionally, a month before the Carnival week, a heavily concurred ball is the frame for the "Fantasy Costume" contest. Candidates of the different categories have the last chance to impress judges and supporters by boasting truly spectacular dressings to lure more followers.
A couple Saturdays, before the Carnival week, is election day, the King and Queen of the carnival are formally elected, as well as the King and Queens of Happiness and the king and Queen of Fantasy.
A week before is also election day but for The king and Queen of Sex Diversity, the King and Queen of Youth, and The King and Queen of persons with disabilities.
The children Kings and Queens are elected in the afternoon with all correspondent revelry.
The City and the Carnival Board dress with related decoration the ocean front street. Intense activity, music, and dancing are all over the town creating a unique ambiance of festivity. Now everything is set to start the Carnival Week.
The main week of activities starts on Wednesday with the Coronation of all Kings and Queens by the authorities. And it all ends a week later with the fat-Tuesday parade, which is actually the largest parade of the week; upon 8,000 people come to the main street to celebrate it.
Wednesday: Coronation of the Carnival Sovereign Thursday: Coronation of Infants Friday: krewes, and first Gala Ball Saturday: second carnival ball and first parade Sunday of tradition: second parade Monday of regional pride: 3rd and last Ball Tuesday of apotheosis: 3rd Parade.
Ash Wednesday: burning of "Juan Carnaval" and lecture of his Will for the upcoming year which is actually a declaration of good wishes for the year to come.
The last four days of the carnival week are quite something; the city is almost paralyzed with the ups and downs of the krewes in different sites of the city as the tradition take them to dance hopping from door to door. It is also the time for "La huaranducha" to show up. It is an inherit Cuban tradition; a kind of ambulant trial with defined funny characters who read rhymes to mock of the politicians and some other members of the society who have been involved in dubious affairs. This goes on along the whole day until the time for the parade at 7 pm.
Is Carnival worth to experience?
It is definitely a tradition worth to experience. If your concern is about security, it is safe; if you stay really late, you may see some unruly drunks scattered all over, but nothing to be worried about. Until today, no major incident has been reported for carnival days. In terms of transportation, if you come by ferry for those days you can find an extra run to go back to the mainland. Ask at the ticket booth for you not to miss it. There are plenty options to drink and eat at the main square and along the parade too. These days the law is a little bit relaxed if you are for a refreshing drink right at the street.
"Join the krewe in the 143rd #cozumelcarnival and let the good times roll!"