Monday, February 11, 2013


February is Carnaval time in Mazatlan, where the city erupts in a frenzy of costumed, glitter-immersed parties and parades.  The annual celebration dates back to 1898 and is considered the third largest carnival in the world behind Rio and New Orleans.  After seeing the crowd gather in the street for the parade last night, I believe it.  There was a mass of people stretching the entire length of the Malecon, with large families staking out good viewing spots for hours before the parade.  Vendors set up shop along the sidewalk selling hats, wigs, masks, and noise-makers, transforming the massive crowd in to a waving sea of fluorescent color.

Millie and Colin flew to Tampa to visit grandparents on Saturday and left me here to witness the spectacle by myself.  Fortunately, our friends Chuck and Karen on Katie G and Reg and Phoebe on Three Sheets allowed me to join them for the festivities which included a big fireworks display on the beach Saturday night and the much-anticipated parade on Sunday night.

So, after seeing Millie and Colin off to the airport, I went over to Katie G to kick off the party with some afternoon margaritas.  We then jumped on the Centro bus to the old town, grabbed a Big Kahuna at Beach Burger, drank a few more beers, and stumbled down to the Malecon to wait for the fireworks to get started.  We stopped along the way to see the colorful wigs on display and soon Chuck was looking sharp in a rainbow mohawk and Karen in flowing yellow and black locks.  They convinced me to go with the jet-black afro wig.  It was a new look for me.

Karen danced with the locals as we walked along the Malecon, checking out the various bands performing on stages every half-block apart.  The music was so loud it would vibrate through your body as you passed and the songs all merged together in to one beat.  As the hour grew later and the crowd grew larger I'd had enough fun and jumped in a taxi.  The fireworks were going off as I got back to the boat.  I was told it was a great show.

Sunday morning I heard a knock on the hull.  Reg and Phoebe had bought tickets from a hotel on the Malecon offering a buffet and bleacher seats to watch the parade.  Unfortunately, Phoebe was sick and, not wanting the ticket to be wasted, Reg offered it to me.  So, once again, we jumped on the Centro bus and made our way toward the old town.  Dinner was surprisingly good and the bleacher seats they set up provided a great perch for viewing the parade.  As the sun dipped under the waves in a splash of orange and purple I gazed over the crowd buzzing below. 

I'm not sure how many thousands of people were crammed into the streets that night but it was standing room only for miles in both directions.  I couldn't help but notice a distinct difference from similar gatherings I've attended in the U.S. -- a complete lack of hostility.  There were no fights, no arguments, no angry words, not even a dirty look.  How can hundreds of thousands of people gather in a public place without some form of conflict?  It seemed oddly irregular to me.  It also seemed strange that few people (besides us gringos) were drinking which, I assume, had a lot to do with the affable attitude of the crowd.  This morning I read that four people were shot on Bourbon Street during the pre-Mardi Gras celebration.  I lived a mile from Oakland, California for many years and am well aware of the dangers of American cities, particularly when large crowds gather.  This was different -- young and old, locals and transients, all clustered together in a peaceful and festive celebration, without attitude, without aggression, without intoxication.  And, although the parade seemed to celebrate the American film industry more than Mexican culture, the floats were impressive.  Millie and Colin would have enjoyed it.

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mom said...

wow!!! looks like fun to me.. amazing that many people and still a peaceful celebration.. too bad millie and colin missed it.. yea, they would have love it! hey, i'd love to have gone too :>)

Phoebe and Reg said...

Nice pic James of Alia and Reg!!!!