So Carnaval 2018 is almost upon us and I’m guessing that, like me, many non Latin Americans have only a hazy idea of what carnaval even is, excepting mental snapshots of people dancing down the street in Rio or New Orleans. But never fear for MexicoCassie is here to help you get your pretty little head around this most exciting of celebrations and figure out what to expect from Carnaval in Merida, Mexico.
So what is Carnaval?
Well, yes, you’re sort of right, it can be lots of half naked people getting drunk and chucking beads at each other but it’s also a whole lot of other things too.
Carnaval is an actual Catholic festival that was brought to Mexico by those pesky conquistadors from Spain in the sixteenth century. It’s all about getting the excesses out the system before the forty days of Lent that precede Easter. Carnaval, in fact, is Latin for ‘removal of meat’. Strict Catholics actually do give up meat during this forty day period. But wait, I’m not here for the religious lesson. I don’t even like religion. If you do want to know more, I suggest you ask a religious person.
Like Christmas in the UK, Carnaval handily coincided with ancient local festivals and so was accepted and adapted to fit the local population. Oh yeah, it is also called Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’ in some places, obv.
When is Carnaval in Merida?
Celebrations begin the weekend before Lent, and as such, we’re talking moveable feast, Lent being attached to Easter, which we all know is attached to Pesach, which is also a moveable feast, seeing as how the Jewish and Christian calendars don’t match up. Got it?
Ok, so I’ll just tell you: In 2018, Carnaval is February 7 – 14 so get your accommodation booked sharpish and come join the fun! We’re expecting you.
What to Expect from Carnaval in Merida
Many people don’t realise that Carnaval is even a Mexican thing but let me assure you, it really is and there are some great places to see it celebrated around the country. Merida, as a more socially conservative city, is a great place to begin your introduction to carnaval before working your way up to some of the bigger carnaval locations such as Mazatlan and Veracruz.
Getting To Events
In Merida, carnaval has moved, for the most part, out of town. Previously it was celebrated, in its entirety, down town but local businesses and residents got really fed up with the noise and overcrowding (see, socially conservative!) and as such the city government moved it just outside of town to its own location in Plaza Carnaval in Xmatkuil.
There are three main pick up points in the centre of town:
- Centro (calle 69 entre 60 y 58)
- Plaza Canek (Av. Jacinto Canek)
- Plaza Patio Merida (ruta oriente)
On Friday, Saturday and Monday buses run between 5pm and 2am. On Sunday and Tuesday they run between 10am and 9pm.
For more detail on these routes please check the official carnaval page.
Some of the celebrations do take place in the centro, on roads leading from the Gran Plaza. People line the street on either side to watch the processions. Last year we watched the Desfile Infantiles (Children’s Parade) from a good location along here. If you’re interested, it’s worth checking out the carnaval website here: or following along on facebook to see what’s happening where. I believe the children’s parade is always in town, for example.
Merida’s carnaval slogan for 2018 is: ‘ LA FIESTA QUE LAS UNE’ – or, the festival that unites us.
Carnaval In Merida: Programme Of Events
Sat 3rd Feb Festivities kick off with the Concurso de Comparsas
Wed 7th Feb Coronation of King and Queen. This year it’s two local talk show hosts.
Performance by Los Angeles Azules (a famous Mexican band)
Burning of the Bad Humour (wait to see whose effigy is going to be burned this year)
Thurs 8th 4pm Feb Children’s Parade Centro Historico (Begins calle 62 x 63 and continues along 62 and 61 until turning on to 60 and meeting at Parque Santa Lucia)
Fri 9th Feb 8pm Paseo de Corso with Mexican tv stars, Gabriel Soto and Ariadne Diaz hosting. Two further groups will be performing later on and are not ticketed. Carnaval Plaza
Sat 10th Feb 8pm Fantasy Saturday Carnaval Plaza
Sun 11th Feb 1pm Domingo de Bachata (a type of dance)Carnaval Plaza
Mon 12th Feb 8pm Regional Monday where there will be demonstration of Yucatecan culture Carnaval Plaza
Tues 13th Feb 1pm Flower Battle Carnaval Plaza
Christian Nodal in concert
Wed 14th Feb 8pm Reading of the will of Juan de Carnaval (possibly the most colourful spectacle of the week) By the municipal palace
And there we have it folks, carnaval will end and these romantic Mexicans can flow seamlessly in to celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Are you celebrating carnaval anywhere this year? Do you enjoy it?