This is my fourth winter in Mazatlán since 2018 and I have been dazzled by its pre-Lent Carnival three times. Last year, however, I didn’t go because the event didn’t happen.
So when it was announced last week that the Carnaval de Mazatlán would be held this year with the theme, “Lanao, El Viaje Continuar,” I was excited. The 124th season of one of the largest carnivals in the world, alongside the 10-day Rio and the single-day New Orleans, will take place from February 24–March 1. It’s a 6-day Mardi Gras of coronations, fireworks, concerts, games, parades, and parties celebrated along the 13-mile-long Malecon, the longest boardwalk in Latin America.
1. The Coronation Of The Carnival King
The first events will be the coronations of the Royal Carnival Family who will preside over the festivities: the king, the queens, and the child queen. These events are held at the Teodoro Mariscal Baseball Stadium with a capacity of 16,000 and feature lots of dancing, animated video effects, and epic fireworks.
From 1898–1928, the Carnival King was called the King of Madness, celebrating the satirical role kings sometimes play. From 1929–1964, the coronations were suspended. When the organizers brought back royalty into the Carnival, it became the King of Joy. This coronation will be held at 8 p.m. on February 24. It will be a fun and rowdy opening night followed by a huge concert.
2. The Coronation Of The Carnival Queens
The queens are chosen from among the winners of many beauty contests held all around Mazatlán. The winner is declared the Carnival Queen and the runner-up is the Queen of the Floral Games. People dress casually for the King’s Coronation but for the queens’ celebrations, they come out in their best party attire. The Carnival Queen will be crowned at 6 p.m. on February 26.
On the day before, a poetry and literature contest that started back in 1925 called the Floral Games, will be staged. It includes an award for the best literary work published in Mexico that year. Its name comes from the flowers originally given as prizes, but now, with the myriad of entries it receives, the literary awards have become very prestigious featuring many famous authors among past winners. The Queen of the Floral Games is crowned at 8 p.m.
3. The Burning Of Bad Humor And Naval Combat
Right after the Coronation of the Carnival Queen, an unusual event is held. The Burning of the Bad Humor is a Mexican tradition. A giant puppet that has been filled with firecrackers is hanged and then burned to banish something bad that is hovering over the city. Most of the time, it is of an unpopular public figure, but in 2020, it was coronavirus. The virus has not left us, however, so they may burn it again this year!
Immediately after, the most popular event of the week bursts onto the scene. Over 500,000 people congregate at Olas Atlas, the iconic golden beach of Mazatlán and the Carnival party zone at the southern end of the Malecon. An extravagant fireworks display will accompany “Naval Combat,” the reenactment of the battle between a French naval ship that tried to invade Mazatlán and the residents who fiercely fought back. The event has been the symbol of Mazatlecan valor and victory. This year, we are trying to arrange to watch it aboard a rented ferry boat. Others reserve spots on the roofs of hotels and condos.
4. The Carnival Parade
But, it is the Carnival Parade that highlights the week. About 300,000 people watch as it slowly travels along the Avenue del Mar that hugs the long boardwalk of the Malecon. Families stake out their spots early and carry their folding chairs and coolers on long walks from distant parking lots. In 2019, we watched from a raised platform built by the Hotel Hacienda. Our front row seats were a strategic spot from which I took pictures of the revelry late into the night. Others reserve a table at a high enough restaurant deck or book a night at one of the many hotels with balconies fronting the Malecon.
The parade leaves at about 4:30 p.m. from the Fishermen’s Monument going north to the famous Valentino’s, a stretch of 6.8 miles on the Malecon. A pre-parade will see participation from businesses like Pacifico tossing out freebies to the crowd. The main parade rolls out 30 minutes later. This year will see 30 (previously 40) elaborately decorated, themed floats, thousands of dancers, musicians, dancing horses, and present Carnival royalty. In the past few days, huge monigotes (creative stick men) have been quickly installed alongside the permanent Malecon monuments.
5. The Children’s Dance And The Child Queen Coronation
And the children will have their own day at the Carnival! At 10 a.m. on Monday, the Children’s Dance will be held at the Salon Spectaculare which fills up with eager little children dancing to the delight of family and friends. There are lots of awards and prizes for both choreography and costumes. At 6:30 p.m., the Coronation of the Child Queen, a tradition that started in 1921, will be held at the baseball stadium.
6. The Second Parade
On the last day, Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), a second parade marks the end. The parade flows along the same route, but immediately after, an epic party bursts and lasts long into the night. It is the last chance to party before the solemn observation of Lent begins. In this parade, which starts earlier at 4 p.m., everything is more casual, relaxed, and less crowded.
The Carnaval de Mazatlán encapsulates vibrant Mexican culture and history with an abundance of typical Mazatleco music and brass bands at every corner, festival food at every turn, and costumes and pageantry at every hour. During Carnival week, many, many more satellite events will occur all week long, everywhere, as the whole city is in party mode. It dazzles every year and 2022 will be the same!
Pro Tip: Carnival 2022 will be managed at 75 percent capacity in keeping with the Mexican COVID Traffic Light System which puts Mazatlán at “Code Yellow.” We have felt safe here. People stick to wearing masks not only indoors but even outdoors. Temperature-monitoring and hand sanitizer stations are everywhere.
For more to do near Mazatlán and surrounding Mexico: