Sunday May 27 2018

Posted by Tomas on February 14, 2018
  • Carnaval La Paz February 8-13, 2018
    Carnaval La Paz February 8-13, 2018
  • The main stage at Carnaval La Paz during the coronation of the queen of Carnaval
    The main stage at Carnaval La Paz during the coronation of the queen of Carnaval
  • The Carnaval La Paz parade is a family production
    The Carnaval La Paz parade is a family production
  • It brings out the very best in the community
    It brings out the very best in the community
  • Carnaval La Paz Parade floats
    Carnaval La Paz Parade floats
  • La Paz carnaval parade
    La Paz carnaval parade
  • The Grand Ball of Carnaval will be at Terraza Casino Bellavista
    The Grand Ball of Carnaval will be at Terraza Casino Bellavista
  • Stuffing your face at Carnaval La Paz is one of the fine points of the week.
    Stuffing your face at Carnaval La Paz is one of the fine points of the week.

If all goes according to the usual scheduling around Fat Tuesday Carnaval La Paz will run from February 28 to March 5, 2019. Without a doubt Carnaval is the grandest event on the  La Paz social calendar, drawing hundreds of thousands of people each year. There have been some significant changes to the headline performers on the Malecon main stage and for the first time in memory, a shuffling of the style of the acts and on which day they perform. 

Following the western Christian Easter Calendar Carnaval traditionally ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This means Carnaval can end as early as February 3 and as late as March 9th, so the 2019 Carnaval will be at the very late end of the spring calendar and temps could be nice and warm for activities along the Malecon. The late date of Carnaval usually means heavy attendance, if you're looking to make hotel reservations you will probably have difficulties after early-January

What to expect at Carnaval La Paz

If you come to Carnaval La Paz expecting bead tossing, drunken debauchery and things popping loose you might have to cover the young one's eyes for, it is not that kind of Carnaval. It is a family event, with more modest parades, food booths, and cultural events. Attended by a cross section of Baja California Sur, it is most popular with young people between the ages of 'tweens to early 20's.

There are a king and a queen and some of the most beautiful women and a handful of men in La Paz come out of the woodwork to compete for this honor. Becoming Carnaval Queen or the King of Joy (Traditionally the title is "King of Fools") can be a big thing for a young person in La Paz.

The job has its demands as well as the royal court not only is present during every night of Carnaval but also visits the jail, orphanage and old folks home to bring the spirit of Carnaval to those that can't attend. Coronation of the King usually takes place following the burning of Bad Humor in effigy on Thursday night. The queen and her court are crowned and presented on Friday night.

Taking the crown is serious business in La Paz. In 2010 it was rumored that a family member of the Royal Runner-Up let the air out of the tires of the Queen's float because she felt the reigning queen had cheated to gain her throne. But who knows, it was just rumor, but it held up the parade for nearly 40 minutes.

Performing Acts on the Main Stage:

Perfoming acts are usually presented in December. 

 

The Caranval Parade

The parade nights always bring out the best crowds (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the last three nights) and the float costumes are about as racy as things get in this family town. The Gay community has its good share of the fun with Carnaval and some of the best floats in the parade are entries sponsored by that community. The parade traditionally starts from alternating ends of the Malecon. Sunday night it begins at the southwest end, at the intersection of Marcus de Leon. On Monday night it begins at thenortheast end of the Malecon near the Windmill and the beginning of the divided roadway. On Tuesday night it returns to the southwest end of the waterfront. The parade start times use to be one of the greatest Carnaval jokes, but the last several years the event has started promptly. . 

The main stage is located near the kiosk (bandstand) on the Malecon at the foot of 16th of September. This is where the Burning of Bad Humor in Effigy takes place to officially open Carnaval, most of the nightly performances take place and where the coronation event is held. Things start to fire up about sunset, with the main events on the stage taking place after 8 PM and dancing to live and loud music that continues to about 2 AM nightly. Stages featuring various musical acts from around Mexico and locally that cover much of the musical spectrum and range from 'pretty good' to 'why isn't someone recording these guys'.

There are plenty of Carnaval trinkets and some little thing always ends up being the defining piece of junk for the year, ranging from hand-launched helicopters to glow in the dark mustaches.

There are booths selling specialty bread, margaritas, and tacos, the smell of Carnaval food drifts over much of lower La Paz for almost a week. The booth space isn't cheap and many social organizations that count on funds raised during Carnaval to sustain them through the year have squealed about the increased fees.  

There is a reading, opening night and again on Sunday, by the winning poet laureate in "The Game of Flowers or Florals". The Game of Florals goes back to 169 B.C.E. Roman times when a competition was held for the street poets, troubadours, and bards where the winner was awarded a golden flower encrusted with gems, of which to give the lady of his choosing. The competition was dedicated to the Roman goddess Flora and is most likely the origin of the term, 'to use flowery words'

You can't miss the blanket auctioneers. Selling blankets like they aren't going to make anymore tomorrow, these guys sell combination stacks at breakneck speed. With home modified microphones blaring through sound systems Jimmy Page discarded four decades ago, you soon discover that every phrase in Spanish ends in an "S". Yet there are those ardent blanket buyers who stand there, right in front of the speakers, waiting patiently for the auctioneer to package the "Elvis" bedspread with the Winnie the Pooh comforter, then lose his mind and lets them sell for the ridiculous price of $180 pesos. (I found the prices a bit better than retail, best on the last two days of the carnaval)

How Carnaval Almost Wasn't

Carnaval has certainly become more sophisticated since my first one, 18 years ago. The last farm tractor hauled float was replaced in the parade some years ago, floats became more artistic, headline acts became top drawer and the whole thing just kept getting bigger. In fact, almost too big for the small city of La Paz. It seems hard to imagine, but in 2013, we almost saw the end of Carnival.

The bill for Carnaval 2012 exceeded $880,000USD for the City of La Paz. With the constantly rising expectations, each year's committee felt the need to raise the bar. Carnaval events lead to national TV broadcasts of some of Carnaval La Paz in 2010. Apparently, it didn't lead to big 'Nielson Numbers' and it hasn't happened since.

For the 2018 Carnaval there are rumblings in La Paz again with an expected cost to the city of close to $900,000USD. This year's $17 million pesos budget is 14% larger than 2017 and a 31% larger bill  than that of 2013 budget of $12 million pesos. La Paz has grown commercially to cover a much wider area than that which benefits from the additional traffic of Carnaval. Many businesses in the Carnaval zone find the event significantly detrimental to business and those located in the outlying major commercial areas see reduced traffic. 

Children's Carnaval

Children's Carnaval will be on Sunday, February 17, 2018, with a special Kids Parade, junior Carnaval rides and special entertainment for the youngest set.

Election of the Queen and King of Carnival 

The election of the royal court is based on how much money they raise for the event. With donation boxes bearing their name and photo, votes are counted in pesos and result in a correlation. Despite the means of election, the resulting Queen of Carnaval usually has no shortage of 'guapa'. 

The King of Carnaval has often been a proud representative of the local gay community. In 2012 the King of Carnaval was seen as a little too 'queen' and pelted with items from the parade crowd until he was obligated to retire from the float mid-parade. This prompted the 2013 ban on throwing things at the parade float. Throwing items at the parade marchers is now a ticket-able offense. 

Carnaval Safety

The press of the crowd, particularly near the bottleneck of the central stage can be intimidating. But the jam is usually handled in a friendly and laughing manner where you may sometimes find your feet leaving the ground for several meters of forward motion. 

Just like any mass gathering, Carnaval attracts those that prey on crowds, pickpockets, and petty thieves don't miss Carnaval La Paz either. Local "rateros" (the word is not "banditos") are joined by migratory mainland professionals, so keep a good hand on your cameras and keep what you take with you to a minimum. Police and Mexican military keep a pretty tight wrap on things and descend quickly on even the slightest sign of trouble. 

The down-side of Carnaval La Paz

Without a doubt, Carnaval benefits commercial interests in La Paz and particularly the businesses closest to the action. It also interrupts life and businesses in the area that do not benefit from the increased traffic and disruption. For drivers in La Paz, the Malecon will begin to be obstructed on Monday, February 5 and be closed on Wednesday the 7 as the final setup takes place. Traffic will remain restricted through Wednesday, Feb 14 as clean up continues. 

Traffic flow along the Malecon from Marquis de Leon on the southwestern side to the Molina  (windmill) on the northeastern end. Effectively crossing town after 8 PM will require traveling several blocks inland. The streets are swept daily during Carnaval and the mess seems to evaporate by about 10 AM daily, but it takes through the following week and Kid's Carnaval for some of the mechanical rides and booths to disappear completely from the Malecon.

The few days prior to, the week of and after Carnaval are nearly always sold out well in advance at the better hotels. However, in the past two years, La Paz has added more than 500 new hotel rooms, so it may not be too late yet to make your reservation. Travel to La Paz for Carnaval

Your Invitation

A little personal observation/opinion here: If you have never experienced Carnaval La Paz you might want to make a point of it in 2018, we just never know when it could be the last for a while. Support for the event from local merchants has drifted out of the downtown area that benefits most from Carnaval and now the event relies mostly on sponsorships. I do hope they can coordinate the continuance of the event; it is a true slice of La Paz. 

It's a piece of Baja California Sur folks, if you're in the area, don't miss out. If you miss out, we'll see you at the next Carnaval, we hope!


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