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Carnival History

“In Mazatlan, time is measured by Carnavales”

History of Carnival

Enrique Vega Ayala | Official Chronicler Mazatlan

Mazatlan and the carnivals.

During the five days before the Ash Wednesday of each year, the Mazatlecos celebrate our maximum party. In 1998 the Mazatlan carnival celebrated its century of existence in its modern phase. Each year, on the dates of carnival, Mazatlan is transformed not only by the ornaments that are installed in some of its streets but also by the evident attitude of the population predisposed to joy.

With everything and being so pachangueros, in spite of the fact that the tambora resounds more than the marimba, the Sinaloans do not have the fame of a happy and jacaranda people like the Veracruzans. The Band of the Cross of Cruz Lizárraga is a more direct antecedent of the grupera music than the tropical and salsero rhythms; the dance of the horse or the quebradita can be as showy as any folkloric dance; and, the Mazatlec carnivals are as euphoric as any; but, we have not won, before the world, the image of a happy people, even if it is poor, like the Cubans. Nor do we manage to highlight our joys or our cult of feminine beauty over bullying, as Colombians do. However, this town is clear that the bronco does not quarrel with the dancer.

Distinctive elements of the Mazatlan Carnival

The Mazatlan Carnival is distinguished from the other carnivals of the country and the world, because here the fun is offered to the rhythm of the “band”; the music of the regional Tambora that from Sinaloa has transcended the world through what is now called “la onda grupera”. In addition, the program of this festival, as an exceptional case, includes cultural activities (poetry contests, literature prize and shows of great artistic quality), with which the festival extends to all sectors of the population and covers all the range of tastes of porteños and tourists. Those of the Carnival are days of vacation. Their nights are partying from sunset to sunrise. The party transforms the street into tide of bodies that walk, park or dance under the influence of varied musical genres. The grupera wave, the sinaloense band, the mariachi, “los chirrrines” (ranchera and norteña music ensembles), the ballad, the bolero and the rock coexist in an unusual promiscuity. Without underestimating genres, bodies are seduced by rhythm – erected as a dictator – and, sometimes, as a dance partner. No matter the confetti in the mouth or the flour in the head, it matters to be there, present, without inhibitions, enjoying the sensation of excess, until emptying the pocket or until exhausting the energies.

The popular party

The modifications that it has suffered throughout history have not altered the original character of this popular festival. Only the scenario of its realization changed, for reasons of space, as the number of inhabitants of the port grew. Now the main stage of the party is the Paseo de Olas Altas and the Claussen, right at the foot of the sea. The coastal avenue, in these sections, closes to the passage of vehicles to build inside it a parenthesis to everyday life, a season of exception in which some social rules become lax, in which situations that are normally frowned upon are tolerate, in a security environment that results in parties in healthy peace. Every night between Friday and Tuesday of Carnival, Olas Altas and Paseo Claussen – the best landscapes of Mazatlan, the favorite postcards – become a gigantic meeting and dance center next to the Pacific Ocean. If the sound of the crashing waves is not heard on those nights, it is because of the decibels of the music and the noise. Kilometer and a half of avenue closed to the circulation of vehicles, streets and intersections interrupted with fences. About 60 thousand people enter the trip in the best of their nights. A huge party opens to private elections. Throughout the tour there are many small bands spread over which different musical groups perform their songs and the “mobile discs” reproduce their CDs.

The reigns and coronations

Although usually some Carnival activities are held since Thursday, the official celebration always starts on Friday and ends on the following Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday. However, the party atmosphere begins to be felt at the port many days before. The campaigns of the candidates to the reigns (of Carnival, of the Floral Games, Infantile and of the joy or “Ugly King”) help to prepare the Carnival spirit, provoking some manifestations that, from time to time, cross the streets of the city ​​making a fuss and bustle. Other important carnival events take place outside of the “official” days of the pachanga: exhibitions where historical aspects of Carnival are divulged, the Evening of the Arts, and the election of the Queen, for example.

Shortly before the carnival march, the queen of the party must have been chosen. To select the woman, representative of the unusual festive monarchy, the porteños have practiced all kinds of methods, from the typical beauty contest to the accumulation of economic votes, going through the arbitrary one-person designation. The winning candidate of the second place in the competition is designated Queen of the Floral Games. Also participating in this mechanics are girls aspiring to the reign of childhood and aspiring knights to occupy a place in the carnival history of the port personifying the ugly Buenos Aires, with the title euphemistically known as King of Joy.

To crown the carnival majesties, the baseball stadium of the city is transformed: a huge stage rises in the middle of the “diamond”, sets are designed for each of the coronations, towers and beams of lights, speakers and monitors are placed , ramps and levels. The cry of “Play Ball!” Is replaced by the third call. They combine, in this way, two great Mazatlan passions: baseball and carnival.

Birth of the modern carnival tradition in Mazatlan

In 1898, the carnival went from being a celebration spontaneously carried out by the inhabitants of the port to being a party governed by a civil committee, a “Junta”, created for this purpose. This feature makes it the oldest carnival in the country of those organized in this way.

On Tuesday, February 22, 1898, the first procession of chariots and decorated bicycles of this history made its way through the swirling crowd in the streets of the Plaza Machado. To introduce a facsimile air to the celebration, Gerardo de la Vega was anointed king of madness and a contest was held among the decorated vehicles that paraded. This was the first carnival organized by a Committee. The game of flour was coming to an end and the modern tradition of confetti and streamers in the Mazatlan carnestolendas began.

The first carnivals of confetti and serpentine

In the style of the old Italian carnivals in whose street of the Corso a king was chosen to make parody of the old European monarchies, in the Mazatlan of 1898 a false representative of royalty was also appointed to preside over the novel way of celebrating the carnival. At the head of the first carnival parade in the history of the port, the first King was the target of the general attention and shell shells of those local carnivals who were still reluctant to abandon the practice of the Flour Game.

The second king, “Tito Ahuja”, ran with better luck because thanks to his skills in oratory and his picaresque sense of humor, he was able to win the sympathy of the Mazatlecos, also defining the characteristics that the aspirants to the reign should cover in the future. of King Momo: to be a character of proven popularity, with a disproportionate sense of humor and with skills for oratory, because among his responsibilities was to harangue the people from the nearest tribune and invite him to join without prejudice or inhibitions to the celebration.

The first queen

In 1900 the figure of the Queen appears in the person of Wilfrida Farmer, limited to the role of consort of an absolutely deranged king – Teodoro Maldonado or Teodorico – who insisted on issuing decrees and unreasonable slogans. In the future, a couple of paternal monarchs-elected at the will of the organizing committee-would adorn and put a “carnival flavor” to the carnival. Winifred Farmer was born in Garland, Maine, the year of 1882. His father Mr. Federico Farmer was established in Mazatlan since 1885, coming to possess a workshop specializing in the repair, repair and painting of all kinds of carriages. Winnie, as she was fondly called, came very young to Mazatlan and lived here for more than twenty years, until 1917 when she returned to her home country. Surely his studies were conducted in this city, because he spoke Spanish perfectly, they say. Here he got married and had a daughter. Winnie was seventeen years old when her father allowed her to appear as the consort of the carnival king. Since young Winnie is described in the chronicles as very helpful and affectionate.

From her participation in the Carnival celebrations of 1900, the one that was recognized as the first sovereign remembered with nostalgia that she was made “two costumes: the reception and the riding.” The dressmaker in charge of both was Mrs. Delfina Perla. Therefore, in the photos that illustrate this room wears both dresses. In the salon portraits and in the photo of the dance at the Casino, she appears in the costume that, according to the press, was “in the style of Catalina de Médici”. That same dress was worn during the reception walk of the kings and in the official parade of decorated cars and carnival Sunday extras. In the photo on foot the horse wears the riding “brocade purple velvet, with white stripes”.

The double royal attire was due to Winnie, as queen, wanted to participate on horseback in “the ride of riders, comparsas, bicycles, air cars, cars and other mobiles” that the Carnival Committee scheduled to be held on Shrove Tuesday from three in the afternoon. In 1956, Winnie recalled: “I rode on horseback, escorted by several young people including Bailey and Guillermo Haas.” The unusualness of this fact led to the photo being shared with his steed profusely. With that photograph was born the legend of the queen who paraded on horseback. With that image it was possible to highlight the determined character of the young pioneer who risked being the first woman to preside over the party, even if she represented the role of the consort of the character then protagonist of the carnival, his Majesty the King.

Still at 64 years of age, in 1956, he returned to Mazatlan to parade again as queen. The chroniclers then described her as “a serene lady who retains an admirable freshness and in her dealings the contagious joy of a quiet existence is noticed. Affable, chubby, her silvery hair serves as a frame for a face in which her olive eyes appear. ”

Gallery of Queens

The style of the participation of women in carnival changed when, at the beginning of the 20th century, a popular contest was established to choose the Queen through cut-out coupons, published in the newspaper El Correo de la Tarde, which were to be deposited in placed amphorae in strategic points of the city. The course of the carnivals acquired with this system another feature, the annual competition for the reigns that, from the beginning, drew the attention of the Mazatlan community. All social classes, without distinction, were involved in the contest, the passions were unleashed. All the social sectors were involved with great enthusiasm to the carnival, supporting one or the other candidate. No one was oblivious to the vertigo of the campaigns as, not even the soldiers of the local garrison or the students of the nautical school. The Committees are made up of prestigious personalities, lawyers, generals, politicians, artists, public officials, businessmen; and, they were backed by sports and social clubs in the city.

The popular competition to designate the sovereign brought negative consequences for the future of the “king”, who from then on was selected at whim by the queen, gaining in gallantry what he lost in humor and spontaneity. In order to avoid the abandonment of the Farallian tone, the organizing committee would henceforth have a “chancellor” who would be responsible for reading the satirical discourses, which would definitively disappear from the monarchical ceremonial in the middle of the 20th century. The image of the king was not considered accessory and in the season of 1929 his participation was abolished on the grounds that it generated too many expenses. Since then the Mazatlan women had for themselves the absolute reign of the maximum party.

In 1942 and 1943 the gallant image of the king returned to accompany the sovereign, but her kingdom was ephemeral and finally culminated taking with it a love story: at the end of the carnival the monarchs of 1943 decided not to form a real marriage but a marriage in the real life.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, there were several occasions in which some candidates and even elected queens were reluctant to participate in the party, to avoid “crisis” due to the absence of sovereigns, the organizing committee of the carnival of 1925 decided that the designation of the aspirants to the throne was made by means of an official registry, indicating as conditions that each candidate had a support committee and acquired the formal commitment to accept the crown in case of being triumphant. By then the system of choice had been transformed. They initiated the campaigns of the so-called economic votes in which each suffrage had the value of one cent. The votes were put on sale in different commercial establishments and social centers of the port. The support committees were erected in parties that compete in gentlemanly contest -and sometimes not so much- the favors of the economic sectors and as never before, the attention of the bulk of the population was put on the campaigns.

Either by direct popular vote or appointment of the committee itself, by means of votes published in newspapers or by the strange and exciting way of “corking”, by chance, the economic or beauty contest votes, personality and culture , the carnival of Mazatlan has always had sovereigns; whose election, in some years, has encouraged the free spreading of “mitotes” to highlight or discredit, has unleashed the temporary enmity of the neighbors; In this way, the “moving war” is created, with which the previous atmosphere is created, necessary so that the party spirit does not start from scratch the night of the first dance in Olas Altas.

The origin of the carnival in Mazatlan

In Mazatlan, the carnival is practically celebrated since the arrival of the first settlers to settle in this territory. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Mazatlecos made, from the days before Lent, an island to put into practice the excesses forbidden the rest of the year; the behaviors considered sinful, the ones indicated with the index of fire came to light before they took refuge in the marasmus of religious guilt. There was no authority that could stop the celebration, if perhaps it managed to minimize the excesses by means of mounted policemen and obtained resources by means of the collection of taxes by use of disguise.

On February 12, 1827, a “treat, masquerade, and comparsa” was held in Mazatlan, in which the soldiers who guarded the port participated. This celebration is the oldest of which we are right and accounts for the ancient roots of the carnival in this port. That event is documented in a Report of the Commander of the Mazatlan Squadron, Captain Juan Antonio Muñoz. It was, paradoxically, an act of protest by “the troop to demand the payment of their salaries”, which degenerated into pachanga, according to the description that Commander Muñoz sent to the head of the treasury office.

According to the ancient chronicles, on Tuesday of carnival a troop of forty or fifty masked mazatlecos, dressed in a long tunic and dressed in a cone cap, on foot or mounted by donkey hair, roamed the streets of the city in a frenzy , telling jokes, improvising ironic songs, entering the homes and bringing to a happy ending the most stupendous and noisy antics at the neighbors’ ribs. In their wake they left a trail of flour and dyes, smearing everywhere the landscape and the peasantry that would cross them on the way. This was the end and finish to the party of madness.

The practice of the so-called Games of Flour acquired greater vigor in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The games were held in public places or in private “gatherings”. In the parties of disguises they came to shine “the entertainments”, filled shells the same of chopped tinsel, that of flour and coloring substances. Apparently, neither the threats of epidemics halted their realization, much less the prohibitions of authority. When by order of the city council they could not be carried out in the social centers or in the streets, the celebrations were organized in the houses. By then, the original troop had been divided: To have fun, the Mazatlan populace formed two groups: those of the “Abasto” and those of the “Muey”. The city split into two great factions. Those of the “Abasto” controlled from the street of the Lighthouse (today March 21) to that of Tiradores (now Zaragoza); the land of the “Muey” went from the Faro to the South Beach. In carts and carriages covered with tarpaulins, brandishing brightly colored flags, the masked contestants made inroads into the opposite neighborhoods where singular battles with shell filled with flour like projectiles took place.

From flour sets to confetti and serpentine.

Under the auspices of the Porfiriato, Mazatlan became a rich and prosperous city that prided itself on being cultured and educated, obstinate in acquiring the customs that projected “good tone”. In the vicinity of the twentieth century, mounted the port on the horse of modernity, it was necessary to eliminate the strongest redoubt of barbarism, the atavism that refused to fall prey to the charms of progress: the Game of Flour. In the salons, in the gatherings, in the press, many voices spoke for its eradication.

On several occasions, the municipal authorities were impelled to undertake campaigns to suppress the game, prohibiting it by decree; but, the extraordinary roots and popularity of the festival among the inhabitants prevented any attempt. Attempts to ban the game of flour failed again and again. When the rumor widely spread that one of the “carnival bands”, in 1897, wanted to dynamite the barracks of the opposing side, the authority and the “cultured society” initiated the final offensive against that carnival modality. If it was not possible to eliminate the party, then it would be necessary to transform it, to change the flour for the confetti, the serpentine and the tinsel; the shells for the entertainment; the incursions of those of the “supply” and those of the “muey” by allegorical parades.

For popular approval, the celebration became an institution, became a matter of public interest. The authorities and those who opposed the “carnivalesque disorder” made it their own. The city council not only did not forbid it anymore, it began to finance it. The lords organized parades to show off as kings. The popular incursions in them, by means of the so-called cheesy troupes, prevented the processions from falling into solemnity. The people ended up accepting the changes: what more did it give him to leave the flour and use confetti if at last he was allowed, without plausibility and without risks, to put the fun through the streets! The cascaronazos continued, although filled with confetti, and the “mascarita” costume became a symbol.

The Floral Games of Mazatlan

The First Regional Exhibition of the Northwest, held in 1925, was the first attempt to boost the deteriorated economy of Mazatlan. Within the framework of this exhibition, at the proposal of Dr. Rafael Domínguez and Mr. Alfredo Alvarez, the literary society “Vesper” collaborated with the organizers of that fair, calling for a poetic contest that gave rise to the Floral Games; three years later, in 1928, for the first time a contest of this nature would be integrated into the Carnival, as a cultural prelude to the generalized revelry. In 1934 a second contest was organized, but it was not until 1937 that the real consolidation of the festival began. Since then it was determined that the date of its celebration would be the Friday before the burning of Bad Humor.

In the initial stages of the Floral Games, poems of classical forms were rewarded; from the seventies of the twentieth century the so-called natural flower is given to poems of free forms and themes. They have been winners of this contest poets from different states of the republic, among which Miguel N. Lira, Elias Nandino, Enriqueta Ochoa, Ernesto Moreno Machuca, Abigael Bojorquez, Dolores Castro, among others. Who has harvested more natural flowers has been the Sinaloan poet, of Campeche origin, Carlos Mcgregor Giacinti. Since 1973, the poetry contest has been called “Clemencia Isaura”.

Children’s carnivals

In its beginnings the carnival was not designed for a children’s audience, but it was evident the joy that among the Mazatlan children aroused the party atmosphere, the disguised adults and the allegorical parades. Because of that and, also, for being according to the moral intention

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