For 900 pesos ($50) per couple, the AguaMarina hotel puts on a nice buffet dinner with parade view seating. Again, when you need to wait 5 hours for the event, the beauty of purchasing tickets is having chairs and access to a real bathroom. (I’m beginning to sound like I’m 100 years old… only concerned with restrooms and standing… but seriously, I’d been sick and didn’t need the germfest of disgusting portapotties or to be exhausted after standing all day in the sun.) We received numbered wrist bands with matching numbered chairs so no one could infringe on our space. Surprisingly, the seating was tiered, providing us a perfect seated view of the parade.
The commercial sponsors have their own parade before the main show. So we got a 2-fer. Gaspasa (gas company), TelCel (cell phones) and others, construct elaborate advertising floats, often using company vehicles. But, in the case of the bus company…no decoration required. I imagine the float planning committee is run by Ron Swanson of Parks and Rec: “What are we going to do for Carnaval this year, Ron?” “Just drive the bus, what else?” Silence. “OK, fine, you can plop a t-shirt-throwing chick on top, but just one.” Meeting adjourned.
The main sponsor is Pacifico. Started in Mazatlan by German immigrants back in 1900, this company (a city institution, really) still operates its large factory near the cruise ship harbor. So it wasn’t surprising to see Pacifico headlining the commercial docket with an envoy of vehicles, including a gigantic semi-tractor trailer brimming with musicians and scantily-clad Pacifico Girls topped with a mini remote-controlled Pacifico Blimp launched into the air right from the flatbed. A parade within a parade… before the real parade.
Pre-parade people watching was interesting stuff. The ever-present Carnaval masks were a hit as usual, but colorful wigs and cool hats ruled. We saw kids with long purple hair down to their ankles, guys and girls in gigantic 70’s afros, a couple sporting Mario and Luigi hats, Spiderman masks, even a super creepy Mad-Hatter disguise.
Need More Lasers
Confetti flew everywhere, spit out in streams at spectators from every other float. In the early years of Carnaval, hollowed eggs were filled with flour and flung at floats and spectators alike, causing a huge mess. Eventually, confetti eggs replaced flour as a better alternative. Management has since cracked down on projectile-throwing for safety reasons. But now we have LASERS! Yes, you too can buy a laser and shine it in your fellow float-riders eyes, blinding them for life. But it’s so much SAFER. And more environmentally friendly.
The Real Parade
While the commercial parade began in daylight, we waited at least another hour for the main attraction. Dark by now, we could see the lights of the procession across the bay, crawling at a snail’s pace along the concave oceanfront boulevard. Then the first float arrived, and we were treated with an endless array of elaborately lit structures, smiling, beautiful women in sashes doing the queen wave, live musicians trying to overpower their competition on the preceding float, confetti blowers and t-shirt throwers, fake eyelashes, sequined dresses and tight gold lamé shorts. Dancing teams (one performing to Saturday Night Fever of all songs) and dozens of mariachi and banda bands marched in between. This year’s Carnaval theme was “The allegory that emerged from the waves”. So, all the floats tended to be ocean-related and/or Atlantis-themed. Lots of Greek columns, dolphins, shells, seahorses, coral, ships, even a giant lobster. The evening convoy ended with dozens of prancing horses, all in alignment, hooves lifting daintily.
Effervescent Child Queen
While there were many grand floats, the highlight of the night was the Child Queen float. We saw this amazing 8-yr old at the selection ceremony in the town square and she was every bit as cute tonight. Having an absolute ball, Emilia grinned ear to ear, waving and blowing kisses and looking everyone in the eye like a pro. Then she’d break into dance, boogying on her bouncy “manta ray” perch. After many miles and countless waves, there was no posing, just honesty…a grateful Queen expressing love for “her people”. And the people adored her right back. Maybe one day she’ll be President.
Family Friendly Carnaval
If you are looking for a family-friendly Carnaval to attend, Mazatlan is it. We highly recommend the experience. Just book your hotel early! Despite the sheer numbers of people, the crowds were respectful and getting around town wasn’t too bad. We saw nothing salacious, just a lot of pretty people in pretty costumes and loud music. If you're looking for skin-flashing, drunken revelers or thong-wearing dancers, move along… this is not the droid you're looking for...