Mexicans love to party, neither argument or apology there! Once a year, the biggest party of all erupts throughout the country; and no city does it better than Veracruz. This is Carnival! It is Mardi Gras! And it is absolutely spectacular.
Carnaval de Veracruz runs from March 1st to March 9th this year, so the festivities have already begun. Tuesday's celebrations began with the official launch, followed by the children's parade. They were followed by orchestras and dance groups. As afternoon turned to evening, things really started to heat up with Rumbata!
The effigy of 'evil humor' or 'bad mood' was paraded, alongside music, laughter and dancing. While the crowds were entertained by live bands and dance troupes, performing Salseras, the effigy was set up in Zócalo de Veracruz. At 9pm, everyone packed into the square to watch 'evil humor' turned into a bonfire. It was the ceremonial start of Carnival - the burning of all residual bad feeling from 2010. It was the signal to let down your hair and become truly carefree. As the fireworks filled the skies, the message was clear: Let the fiesta begin!
Carnival is celebrated all over the world, particularly where Christianity has left its mark. It occurs during the run up to Lent, when Christians are traditionally supposed to eat no meat (many dilute that into giving up sweets or television or something). As Lent was a time of fasting, then the days before it had to be a period of eating up everything that wasn't going to keep.
Great banquets of perishable foods arrived on the table, particularly during the eve of Lent - Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) or Shrove Tuesday. It was the last gorging before the diet of basic sustenance. In short, it was 'farewell to meat' or, in the Latin, carne vale; carnival in English or carnaval in Spanish.
Of course, if you're going to have a big meal, then you might as well have a party. Veracruz is the perfect example of just that!
There will be parades, music and other festivities from now until March 9th. Each day takes a different theme or story. Today, the King of Happiness is key. He will move in procession through the streets, before eventually ending up in Auditorio Benito Juárez. Here there will be his coronation ceremony. Let Happiness reign!
His consort, the Queen of the Carnival, has her big moment tomorrow. The streets will be thronged with Veracruz's most beautiful ladies, all escorting their festival regent. She too will arrive in Auditorio Benito Juárez for her very own coronation. Happiness and Carnival, it doesn't need spelling out, does it?
Not all of the spectacles are in the streets. Veracruz is a port and so there's a vast ocean out there to fill too. The Boat Parade takes place on Saturday.
The Carnaval de Veracruz is a huge affair. It's big enough to attract performances from some of Latin America's biggest celebrities. This year is no exception. Macro Plaza Malecón is one of Veracruz's largest public squares. It will be the venue for some stunning live shows. On Saturday night, Luis Enrique, aka El Principe de la Salsa (the Prince of Salsa), will take to the stage. The following night, it will be Yuri. Born and bred in the city, she is Mexico's answer to Madonna.
For more information, please visit the Carnival's official website (Spanish). An English translation of the programme can be found here.