Carnaval La Paz – "Ancestral Plumage" – February 12 - February 17, 2015
Candidates for Queen of Carnaval 2015
Carnaval La Paz is just around the corner and the Hotel and restaurant association is anticipating 90% room occupancy in the city, so make your reservations if you still can.
The theme for the 2015 Carnival La Paz is "Plumajes Ancestrales" or "Ancestral Plumage" The logo for the 2015 is a recycle of the 2014 logo. Since the city is reducing costs for Carnival there is not likely to be a Carnaval poster for 2015. In years past, the Carnaval poster became somewhat of a collector's item, each of original design and a work of art unto itself.
On November 7, 2014 the candidates for kings and queen of Carnaval La Paz were introduced to the press and public. Becoming Carnaval Queen or the King of Joy can be a big thing for a young person in La Paz. The job has its demans 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 Carnval to those that can't attend.
By the way, the traditional name for the King of Carnaval is "King of Fools", not Joy.
Candidates for King of Carnaval 2015
*Please note the correct spelling is - "Carnaval" meaning the end of carne (meat) for the period of Lent. It is spelled BOTH ways in this article for the benefit of Search Engines. and those that don't know which is really correct.
Carnaval 2015 will be my 16th Carnaval and it has certainly become more sophisticated since my first. The last farm tractor hauled float was replaced in the parade some years ago, floats more artistic, headline acts are top drawer and the whole thing is just plain bigger.
It isn't what you might expect, compared to Trinidad or New Orleans. it is a family event with more modest parades, food booths and cultural events. Attended by a good cross section of La Paz it is most popular with young people between the ages of teens and early 20's. I liken it in both presentation and who enjoys it most to our county fairs in the rural U.S.
It seems hard to imagine, as most of us think of Carnaval La Paz as an institution in the culture mosaic of La Paz. But in 2013, we almost saw the end of Carnival, at least temporarily. Saving Carnaval was in part, due to the efforts of Mayor Esthela Ponce Beltrán that sponsors outside the La Paz community came to the rescue.
The with the cost of headline acts, cost of security, decorations, clean up and all the civic things that go into Carnaval, the bill for Carnaval 2013 exceeded $880,000USD for the City of La Paz. There have been growing expectations over the last decade or more over what is expected of Carnaval La Paz, each year felt the need to raise the bar over the year before. Perhaps more importantly, competition from other cities in Mexico with new or established Carnavals even lead to the national broadcast of some of the La Paz Carnaval on Mexican national television in 2010. Apparently, it didn't lead to big 'Nielson Numbers' so it hasn't happened since.
The Carnaval La Paz parades are on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the last three days of Carnaval. The parades have traditionally started at alternating ends of the Malecon, last year at 5:30PM sharp.
Fearing any kind of 'black eye' during the event, the cost of maintaining security has also grown dramatically. La Paz works very diligently to maintain the peace and security of the city. In 2013 military patrols took up residential patrols,in and
Children's Carnaval will be on Sunday, February 22, 2015 with a special Kids Parade, junior carnaval rides and special entertainment for the youngest set.
away from the event, so that additional local police could be freed up for Carnaval duty and so the crime would not run unchecked in parts of the city, away from the malecon.
I have been in La Paz now for 16 Carnavals and have always been impressed with the level of protection for attendees. Since beeer alcolholic refreshments are served at a large number of the booths, there is he occasional scuffle, onto which a seeming blue cloud of police officers dencends quickly and escorts the unruely participants away quickly and quietly. I remember one character catching my suspisious eye, as a potential cut-purse, to look a little further into the distance to see two police officers already in his shadow. A few seconds later they each took an elbow of ths shadey character and escorted him from the crowd.
Each year the entertainment roster has gotten more sophisticated, usually bringing one or two really big Mexican acts to a free concert. Each evening of Carnival has been aimed to satisfy each group of fans and age groups with top acts in rock, ranchero and senior artists as well as programs aimed at the very young. These biggest acts have created such a draw that they are no longer held at the main stage, but rather at the La Paz Civic Stadium, at much greater cost.
Without a doubt Carnaval benefits commercialinerests in La Paz and particularly the businesses closest to the action. It alsointerupts life and business in the area that do not benefit from the increased traffic and disruption of business. That vast majority voiced a perhaps justified opinion, desiring not to subsidies Carnaval with city funds. For the early months of 2013 it looked like we may have attended that last Carnaval La Paz.
But, due to the efforts of the mayor and to local fund raising efforts we saw a Carnaval 2014 in La Paz and now the city is beginning preparations for Carnaval 2015/ Although the headliner acts schedule has not yet been announced, I would expect to see a scaling back of Carnaval, an increase in the fees for booths and other belt tightening efforts to control costs. Last year saw the production of several very slick video campaigns well in advance of Carnaval 2013, very one of these videos has drawn criticsm, just proving you can't please all of the people any of the time.
History of Carnaval La Paz
Carnaval La Paz dates back to the 1880's and was originally established as a grand ball for the socially elite. The first queen was elected just after the turn of the century and the Black & White Ball at the La Perla Hotel became a part of the celebration despite the Mexican Revolution raging on the Mexican mainland in 1916. The queen until recently was elected solely on the basis of how much money was donated in her name to Carnaval. Bake sales, dances and just plain hitting up your friends and neighbors was how you raised money for your royalty bid. Carnival La Paz has been a nearly constant cultural feature of La Paz for more than 120 years. Carnaval La Paz really came into its own after interest in the event grew in the 1950's and 60's. It was during that period that Carnaval evolved into an event for all social strata of residents and tourists.
Click on any of the main acts below for a view sample of their performances
Following the Easter calendar, Carnaval usually ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on February 18, 2015. Ash Wednesday can fall as early as February 4th ( next in 2285AD) and as late as March 10, (next in 2038AD) Carnaval La Paz - 2015 will be February 12 to February 17. Since this is in the early window of where Carnaval can fall, it may still be a little brisk, as La Paz 'winter' runs from January 15 to February 15th, kinda... It is not uncommon to have a little rain the first and second weeks of February either.
In 2004 Carnaval was moved to two weeks following the normal date as Baja California Sur elections also fell on that date. Election days are 'dry days' and 'dry' and Carnaval are bad bedfellows!
Most of the events are centered around the Esplanade and along the Malecon, although events and stages will be in place in many locations along the waterfront. The Parades will be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, starting from opposite ends of the Malecon. Vendors will begin setting up as early as Monday, February 24 and traffic will be narrowed to one lane along the Malecon on Wednesday, February 26.
If you are coming to La Paz during Carnaval expect lots of people, lots of fun, traffic challenges and the thumping of bass music until the early morning hours from the 27th to the 4th. The sun usually rises on the last party goers on the weekends and the serious business of La Paz usually gets put on hold.
History of Carnaval in General
I did a little research on the origination of the word "carnaval". The general consensus is that it evolved during the middle ages, as part of the Roman Catholic ritual of lent. It gets a little more vague after that.
The Venetian seem to claim the most palatable explanation. The Shrove Thursday celebration is closely related to the history of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, consequently to the victory over Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia.
Ulrico's troops had attacked Venice while the "Serenissima" was busy fighting another war against the Ducati of Padova and Ferrara. Italy was a lively place, at that time.
After the defeat, Ulrico of Aquileia, had to pay the Venetians one bull and 12 pigs, as war reimbursement.
So, from that moment on, the tradition was established of "executing" every year that same amount of animals in the San Marco square, and all the population participated to the feast, banquet, dances, acrobats. I found this story stretched even a little further: Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.” As time passed, Carnaval evolved. Carnavals in Italy became quite famous; and in fact the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnaval.
What ever the historical interpretation of Carnaval I found one wood cut dating from the middle of the last millennium that translated distinctly. The imagery of the wild horse, the moon forming horns over the reveler's head, all that can be interpreted in different ways. The open purse dumping money on the ground is universal. With food, rides, cerveza, tequila, novelties and just plain Carni-crap free flowing, it's easy to loose hold of the purse strings.
One thing to consider when you are walking through the press of the crowds is that carnaval gathers the dark side of Baja in the same place. Mind your purse, camera's and wallets when out at night. The security provided by the local polica, state police and military will be vigilant and ever present .
The press of the crowd can be overwhelming at times. I'm a big guy and years ago the crowd swept me down the Malécon, literally off my feet, some 1/2 a block past my waiting friends. I found carnaval more enjoyable in the earlier hours, before all the cerveza and tequila had a chance to soak into the crowd.
The evening parade is one of the highlights of the carnaval. Sunday though Tuesday at dusk the parade marches down the Malecon.
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'.
There is a king and queen. Some of the most beautiful women and a handful of men in La Paz come out of the woodwork to compete for this honor. The queen and her court ride on one float. Picking a winner has to be an incredibly difficult job, they are each flawless Baja Beauties. The parade King rides a few floats behind with his court. Funny enough though, there seemed to be a few more chicas on his float to keep the crowd watching and the queen on her toes.
Becoming queen is serious business in La Paz too. In 2010 it was rumored that a family member of the Royal Runner Up let the air out of the tires of the Queens float. But who knows, it was just rumor, but it held up the parade for nearly 40 minutes.
Always keep your eye on the parade. There are larger gifts sometimes hurled to or from the crowd, like full, chilled cans of beer or soda. These gifts are much more appreciated when caught with the hand instead of the back of your head.
In 2012 it became a ticket able offence to throw anything back at the Carnaval float riders. Throwing blown-out eggs filled with confetti is nearly traditional in La Paz, tossed at other parade watchers and at float riders. In 2011 a particularly effeminate King of Carnaval was pelted with hard boiled eggs and other dangerous projectiles bringing the King to tears. In 2012 additional marchers were added at random to the parade with placards asking people not to throw things. It helped to deter projectiles a little, as did a much more subtle King of queens.
First. you have to understand that driving an 18 wheeler for Corona, Modelo or Pacifico pretty much puts you in the same crowd as Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretski in Mexico. Not only do you work with cerveza but you get PAID for it!
The floats in the parade are sponsored by major players in many different industries, Telcel, banks, race teams and civic organizations. I expect we will see a great deal more commercialism in this year's Carnaval.
The first year I was here a fist fight broke out between the parade organizers and representative drivers from at least two different beer companies. Why? It was unclear or unacceptable as to which beer brand would lead off the parade.
Organizers alternate parade routes, so each end of town sees the parade first. But they have three days of parades and three beer companies, each wanting to lead off the parade.The solution was three parades that night. One beer company lead the way. Then there was a long pause. Many observers assumed that that was it for the parade, and started wandering down the street towards the main events at the Municipal Pier area. Soon the sea of humanity was parted, and another set of flashing lights and motorcycles ushered the second then third segments of the parade down the street.
There were some interesting stage shows happening at the main stage at the foot of 16th de Septembre, near the municipal pier. Big name Latin acts appeared nightly. National television broadcast at least one night from the main stage. I don't recognize many of the entertainers, but I have developed a taste for a dozen Latina lovelies leaping about the stage in spandex and a handful of sequins. There was a little more local talent on the main stage this year including our local Polynesian dance academy students.
The food, the aromas and the diversity of people you see at carnaval make it the event. The carnaval rides are fun for many, I watched a leaky hydraulic support rise and fall from the ground as 30 or so screaming hi-G riders whirled overhead spewing change (and sometimes more) through the crowd. I chose to remain on the ground and save my 5 pesos. But then again, I jumped off a 300' bridge in Colorado with a rubber band on my feet for much more money.
The location of the carnival rides is in question at the pressing of this article. Several of the adult skill level rides are parked near the Hotel Los Arcos at the SW end of the Malecon, rather than the usual vacant lot location near the NE end of the Malecon activity.
You can't miss the blanket auctioneers. Selling blankets like they aren't going to make anymore tomorrow, these guys sell combination stacks at break neck speed. With home modified microphones blaring though 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 loose 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)
It's a piece of Mexico folks, if your in the area, don't miss out. If you miss out we'll see you at the next Carnaval, if it happens!