Blazing lights, shining costumes, vibrant parades, and thrilling music—it’s almost time for Mexico’s Carnaval! Celebrated in Veracruz and towns all over the country, July’s Carnaval is a time to celebrate Mexican pride and tradition. This week-long party is famous for its parades and dances—and this year will be the 99th Veracruz Carnaval!
So, the questions we’re all asking — what is Carnaval and how do we celebrate it in Mexico?!
The Origins of Veracruz’s Carnaval
Way back in 1866, residents of Veracruz—a Mexican state located on the Eastern coast of the country—sought ways of expressing their traditions and culture while Spanish Emperor Maximiliano still ruled parts of Mexico. Their solution? Masquerade parties, with costumes, dancing, music, and delicious food! Naturally, we partied so hard our celebrations spilled out into the streets, and the Veracruz parades were born.
Over time, Veracruz’s Carnaval evolved to incorporate unique traditions, like the “Burning of the Bad Mood,” the coronation of a “Carnaval Queen,” and the elaborate, performative “Burial of Juan Carnaval.” (More on those in a second!) Today, Veracruz’s Carnaval features five parades across three days, along with the ceremonial festivities. All the parades follow the same route through the city, so that everyone in Veracruz has a chance to experience the Carnaval’s full glory!
What will I see at Carnaval?
The celebration in Veracruz takes place over seven days. In 2023, Carnaval starts with a traditional parade on June 29th and parties all the way to the ceremonial Burial of Juan Carnaval on July 5th. Here’s what you might see at Veracruz’s Carnaval:
Day One: June 29th, 2023
The first day of Carnaval starts with the Rumbata, which is part parade, part religious ceremony, and part dance performance. Musicians play religious drums while dancers perform the Rumba, a unique form of dance encapsulating Mexican tradition and rhythm.
This first day also includes the “Burning of the Bad Humor,” also known as the “Burning of the Bad Mood.” In this performative ceremony, Veracruz residents burn a larger-than-life version of a political figure or celebrity (past examples include Enrique Pena, a symbolic representation of COVID-19, and “The Chemist,” a disliked former mayor)—the source of the “worst vibes” of the preceding year. Then, the party kicks off!
Day Two: June 30th, 2023
On the second day, the Macroplaza del Malecón is home to the Children’s Coronation and the Coronation of the Royal Court. The star of the festival—the Carnaval Queen—is crowned during this event, as are the rest of the royal court: the King of Joy, Children’s Kings, princesses and princes, the Queen’s “bridesmaids,” and more. Those crowned are then part of major parades and performances for the rest of the celebration.
Days Three to Six: July 1st to 4th, 2023
Traditional parades, like the Nautical Parade and the remainder of the Paseo (the famed parades that follow a route along Manuel Ávila Camacho Boulevard) capture the attentions of Veracruz. These parades all follow the same route and feature elaborate floats, brilliant costumes, musical performances, and masked dancers.
Day Seven: July 5th, 2023
Finally, the festival closes with the Burial of Juan Carnaval, a character created just for Carnaval. In this tradition, performers carry an enormous effigy of Juan Carnaval down the parade route to the Zócalo. Among the performers are the recently-crowned Royal Court, who mourn Juan Carnaval with melodramatic crying and screaming.
When the party reaches the Zócalo, the performers read Juan’s sarcastic, ironic will—a speech poking fun at political figures and the events of the past year. Then, Juan is “buried,” and the Royal Court and the people of Veracruz say goodbye to Carnaval for another year.
Are you going to Carnaval this year in Veracruz? If you do, make sure to bring a couple of MexiCrate’s candy variety boxes, so you can share Mexican candies with other partiers! If you’re watching the festivities from afar, stock up on your Mexican candy favorites and have your own celebration at home.