Carnaval Merida is a major event that lasts eight days. Until this year, the activities, parades, concerts, and parties have been held on a 3 mile stretch of main streets through downtown Merida (from the Paseo Montejo to the Main Square downtown). The festivities typically begin around 4 PM and last through the night. Officially, everything would shut down at 2 AM, however, we’ve heard the parties often would last until 5 AM. At this time the clean-up crews would come through and clean up the mess for it to all begin again.
This year there has been quite a bit of controversy. Evidently certain business owners along or near the parade/party routes got the attention of the city fathers. They complained about the mess, the noise, and lack of access to their businesses. In short, they would typically close down for the 8 days of carnaval to save headaches dealing with the situation. This meant a loss of income.
Therefore, Carnaval Merida 2014 is being held at the fairgrounds. With the exception of the opening ceremonies held on the Main Plaza last Wednesday, “The Burning of the Bad Mood” (Quema del Mal Humor), The Children’s Parade last Thursday and the closing, “Burial of Juan Carnaval” (Entierro Juan Carnaval) on Ash Wednesday, all the activities are at the Fairgrounds.
Of course this decision has set off a series of debates amongst the residents of Merida with nasty online and public conversations. Family members have even been pitted against one another. The jury is still out on whether this will be a successful decision. We went to the fairgrounds for carnaval on Monday and watched the parade.
The Burning of the Bad Mood was the opening ceremony. We had a pretty decent watching spot in the crowd. People gathered for the half hour before the starting time. The spotlights on the screen were working. The screen would occasionally provide a light show and the same carnaval song kept being played over and over and over. Once the event started there were three emcees who introduced the Carnaval events, a comedian act, the royalty, fireworks and then a band that played till midnight. However, it was tough not being able to understand much of what was being said. We moved out of the crowd, got some ice cream, watched the fireworks and headed home.
We were in La Paz for carnaval several years ago and the fireworks were set off on the streets, yup, people everywhere. Merida’s fireworks were set off from the top of a building. It felt very safe in comparison.
Last Thursday we went downtown to watch the Pre-School Parade (Desfile de Preescolar). There were 17 school groups represented. For the most part the children were between 3 and 5 years. By the time they reached our spot on the parade route they’d been walking about 8 blocks. They looked like they were either overwhelmed with the ordeal or taking this parade very seriously. Maybe you’ll pick this up in some of the expressions.
I can’t begin to tell you what the children’s costumes represent. Some, you can guess. Be assured each child was totally decked out from head to toe. Each of the 17 schools was led by a pick-up filled with music equipment. The music was loud with the typical deep base that reverberated in your chest. Most of the music was computer controlled/generated.
The Carnaval at the fairgrounds was interesting, in some ways like going to the fair in the U.S. without any agriculture. There were free buses. The entrance was free. All the music and all the other events were free. You could pay $2.50 for preferred seating along the parade route, however, the bleachers were free. So not exactly like the U.S. You did have to pay for your food.
The parade start time was 7 PM with the note that all times were approximate. The parade actually started at 8:40 with a 10 minute gap after the first two entries. This was the regional parade with entrants from the Yucatan villages in their native costumes. We headed home after the parade and were getting into bed around midnight. Yup, it was over two plus hours. Here’s a little taste.
After the parade we did pass by the fried hot dogs with French fries to have an order of churros for the ride home.
So it all ends today, Ash Wednesday, with the Burial of Juan Carnaval on the Main Square downtown. If it’s like the opening there will be speakers and fireworks and dancing.
We did learn of English church services this week. There was an Ash Wednesday mass this morning in an old convent about 6 blocks from us. About 20 of us were in attendance. The service was complete with ashes on the forehead. The Father is from Portugal and speaks very good English. He holds English services on Sunday evenings at 5 PM. There are also English services in a chapel in the main Catedral at 9 AM on Sundays. Evidently the priests from the catedral don’t speak English very well but there is a good choir and good attendance. We’ll be checking it out. Most of the people attending these services are not Roman Catholic.
And last but not least:
The good in Mexico (notice the Gold Stars). We have begun Level 2.
And the ugly:
I may have to adjust the Good, Bad and Ugly since we’re having trouble finding a lot of bad and ugly and lots of good.
As we begin this season of Lent I ask that you take time to reflect on your relationships, with God and everyone else in your life and to do so with a heart of justice, humility and compassion. (Thank you, Padre Jose, for the message this morning.).
Love to all. Adios.