We arrived in Mazatlan by ferry just a few days before Carnaval (the equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans). This 5-day fiesta of the libido begins the weekend before Catholic Lent and is celebrated across Mexico with parades, costumes, music and dancing in the streets. This year, Carnaval took place from February 12 to 17.
Fun Fact: The festival of Carnaval is celebrated as a last indulgence of carnal pleasures that Catholics must give up for 40 days during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. The word ‘Carnaval’ is derived from Latin, meaning ‘take away’ or ‘goodbye to flesh’.
The largest Carnaval celebration in Mexico happens to take place in Mazatlan. Attracting over 300,000 people, it is the third largest event of its kind behind Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. I only found this out a few days before boarding the ferry at La Paz. We couldn’t have timed our arrival better!
The Sunday float parade was the Carnaval event that I was looking forward to the most. Since we had 3 days to kill before parade day, we planned some activities to occupy us until then: first a beach day, then a day trip to the historical city centre, followed by a Valentine’s Day chill-fest. Once our itinerary was set, we crawled into the tent top of the van for a good night’s sleep.
Gregor woke up in the middle of the night under a Chinese water torture – rain was leaking through the sun roof and dripping onto his forehead. He closed the sun roof but it was pouring so hard that the rain just kept leaking in. When Gregor turned on the lights, he saw that water was rolling from seals of the sun roof, down the slope of the van ceiling and pooling at our feet.
“Crap,” Gregor said. “We need to close the tent top and sleep on the bottom.”
Tired and grumpy, I cursed at Lucky under my breath. “Why does this have to happen in the middle of the night?” I mumbled.
We crawled out of the upstairs tent and set up the downstairs bed. We weren’t happy about the interruption, but at least the water torture stopped.
A quick weather check the next morning confirmed that it would rain again on the weekend. “No beach day today,” Gregor declared, “We need to fix the sun roof.”
What Lucky needs, Lucky gets. Wife’s beach time is secondary.
The next day, it poured with rain again but there was no leaking! We were happy that it was dry inside, but not so happy that it was wet outside because we still didn’t get a beach day.
We made up for lost sunbathing time over a nice Valentine’s day dinner at a restaurant called Los Zarapes in Zona Dorada, the gringo part of town where our RV park was located.
The day of the Carnaval Sunday parade had finally arrived. We took a bus to downtown Mazatlan in the morning and spent the entire day in the city.
As we waited for the parade to start, we nibbled on snacks that we bought from the vendors walking up and down the street.
Boy, do Mexicans love to eat! I was impressed with how my fellow parade-goers encouraged me to try their local street snacks – they offered me samples and described tastes and textures in Spanish. I ended up stuffing my face with mango slices sprinkled with chili powder (interesting combo), potato puffs doused in chili sauce (the puffs were shaped like wagon wheels), candied apples (my first ever!), and bacon-wrapped hot dogs (that’s right, the wieners were wrapped in BACON).
The parade finally started two hours late. The floats we saw earlier in the day were lit up, carrying dancers and huge sound systems that played rhythmic, hip-shaking Latin music.
We will never forget the day we hung out with thousands of Mexicans at Carnaval. These people know how to have a good time!