Ensenada Carnaval 2010
Mid-February, 2010 - Over Valentine's Day weekend the city
of Ensenada swelled by 600,000 people as visitors from all
over came to take part in the pre-Lent festival "Carnaval." It
was perfect sailing weather all weekend, bright and sunny
and windy, and we were completely torn between heading
out into the bay on Groovy or going into town to see the
crazy Carnaval scene. Events ran from 2:00 pm until 2:00
am everyday for six days, and we could hear the roar of the
crowd and the beat of the drums until the wee hours of the
morning from across the bay in our marina slip.
Sailing won out on most of the days, as it was the
first really great sailing weather we had had since
we moved aboard. This part of the Pacific coast
had received more rain in the month since we
bought the boat than it had in the entire year of
2009, and we had begun to get a little antsy as we
waited for weather that would be fun for sailing. Yet
Carnaval is one of the biggest local events of the
year in Ensenada, and we didn't want to miss it. In
the end, we got downtown for one day and quickly
found ourselves swept up in a wild parade scene
that was like nothing we had ever witnessed.
People were milling around the tourist district before the parade started. All sorts of vendors
were out and about selling all kinds of things. The crowd was quiet and we found a spot in
the main square to sit and wait with everyone else. Gradually the crowd began to move and
reassemble along the edge of the main street. All of a sudden we heard the beeping horns
of antique cars and then their funny shapes came into view. These were followed by some
crazy cars, one of which drove up on two wheels and many of which were souped up with
wing style doors.
The parade was off to a good start,
and after the last car went by we all
waited patiently for the next part of the
parade to come through. We waited
and waited. The kids began to grow
restless. They would dash out in the
street just to be
called back by
their parents. We
all craned our
around the folks next to us, as we looked down the street for any signs
of the parade, and we quickly found ourselves moving into the middle
of the street as a group. Soon the whole street was full of spectators
with no parade to be seen. After about 10 minutes it seemed that
nothing was going to happen for a while, so Mark and I began walking
and decided to hit the supermarket a few blocks away and do a little
The Sol Beer gal caught Mark's attention and posed with him for a quickie pic as we passed.
There wasn't a soul on any of the streets away from the parade route, and the supermarket
was ultra quiet. Some 20 minutes and a few bags of groceries later, we emerged back onto
the main drag and found the parade in full swing once again.
One look at the crowd that had formed
around a group of mimes explained
what had taken the parade so long.
Rather than marching and walking in a
straight line like all the parades I have
ever seen, this Carnaval parade was
all about performing for the crowd.
Each "act" would stop every 30 yards
or so and put on a complete show for
the audience at that spot.
A large marching band was
deep into their show when we
first caught up with the parade.
One group of kids in the band crouched down while the others marched up and back
and in circles, playing their hearts out. Adults wearing masks that matched the kids'
outfits supervised their movements from the sidelines.
After a good 10 minutes the band finally made its way
beyond us and another group of dancers took their place.
The costumes were elaborate, the dance steps were
intricately choreographed, and the music pulsed with
energy. Every dancer was fully caught up in the moment.
I found myself caught up in the moment too. Busy looking
around, I didn't notice a funny clown on a bike who stopped to
pose in front of me for a minute or so. Then I spotted him and
realized he had seen my camera and was patiently waiting for
me to take a photo.
The theme to this year's
Carnaval was "A Mythological
Party of the Gods," and the
floats and costumes were
colorful and fantastic.
Many floats tossed candy into
the crowd and the kids all
around me scrambled about to
gather it all up. Rather than the
stylized and somewhat bored
wrist-turning hand-wave I am
accustomed to seeing on parade
floats, these floats were alive with energy as the people on them called out to friends in the
crowd, wound up for big candy throws as if they were throwing world series pitches, and
laughed all the while.
Between the floats we were
treated to some terrific
dance groups. From Aztec
looking costumes to
Egyptians right out of King
Tut's tomb, these kids were
totally into their dance
moves. Each group was
preceded by a truck or a
float carrying enormous loud
speakers, and the air throbbed with music of all types as each group paused to perform for us
and then walked a few steps further to entertain the next folks.
And the dancers weren't just kids. A group of older ladies came jigging
along too, and they pirouetted past, hips swaying and blissful looks on
A group that must
have come down to
Mount Olympus in
Greece did the
wildest dance for us.
Purple hair flying,
there were two young men who stole the show
with their unbridled energy and charisma.
As much as
got the crowd
hollering about their dances, the
elaborate costumes wowed us too.
Large headdresses, swooping
feathery things and more sequins
than I've seen in a long time drifted
past. Adults and children alike were
adorned in fantasy-wear.
It seemed there was a place for
everyone in this parade. Many floats
featured little girls in wonderful
costumes, and one little boy got to drive
a really cool little buggy the whole way.
even made a showing, coming up from his underwater domain to
join this mythological party of the gods.
In case the party got a little out of hand
and turned into something more of an
orgy, the Safe Sex van was on hand. I
couldn't figure out what this act was all
about at first, as it was headed up by the
Grim Reaper and several walking
skeletons wearing black hoods. Then I
saw the happy condom painted on the
side of the van and the row of XXL condoms walking along behind. What a surprise it was when
some real condoms were flung in our direction. A little boy next to Mark excitedly scooped one
up, only to have his dad shake his head at him, "No." Just the adults were supposed to
scramble after these goodies.
A caballero on a
beautiful white horse
came prancing along
and then an acrobatic
troupe did some stunts
2010 marks the 100th
anniversary of the
which started in 1910
with the ouster of
Porfirio Diaz from 30
years rule and ended in
1920 with the formation
of a new constitution.
There is a lot more to Carnaval than just the parade, but the wind and
the sea called us back to the boat and we never made it to the other
events. The little we had seen had put huge smiles on our faces,
though, and I came home that night with confetti clinging to my hair
and clothes. It was over a week before I had picked all the little colorful
bits out of the carpets. As the revelers subdued themselves for Lent,
we began a three week long series of jaunts back and forth to the US,
learning a bit about the changes along the southern border of the US.
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.