“Carnaval” began back in the Pagan times. It was a wine celebration for the Greek “God of Wine Dionysios“. The Greek influence can still be seen today in the masks, dancing, drinking and costumes associated Carnaval. However, Carnaval in its present manifestation came about through a fusion of the pagan festival and Catholicism, similar to other popular celebrations like Halloween and St. Valentine’s Day. The origin of the word “Carnaval” comes from the Italian word “carnevale” which means to be without meat. Carnaval is celebrated in the time before Lent, a period during which practicing Catholics go without meat for a month.
Although first celebrated in Italy, the celebration soon traveled to other European Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Portugal. Through the colonization of other countries, Carnaval came to South America, North America and the Caribbean where local customs soon mixed with the old, making regional Carnavals different. However, they all have very boisterous merriment in common and most are held during the traditional Lent celebrations, in February or March (Granada in the Caribbean holds it in the summer to attract tourists). No matter what the language you say it in or what you call it, Carnaval, Carnavale, Karneval or Mrde Gras, you can be assured it means a very fun, good time to be had by all!
We are proud to say that our Cozumel Carnaval is the oldest on the Yucatan Peninsula and perhaps in the whole country of Mexico. According to Merida Magazine published on March 30th and April 20th of 1876 by Mr. Nestor Rubio Alpuche, Cozumel introduced its first Carnaval that year. By oral history we know that in 1896 parades in Carnaval dress, the “Dance of the Ribbons“and the wooden bull “Huacax-ch” first appeared. In 1904 for the first time Don Manuel Vivas Martin, along with a local baker by the name of Perez organized a masquerade, Cuban in origin, where protagonists were depicted as blacks and the women’s roles were played by men.
A bit before the 1920’s a recent arrival from Tabasco to the island name Don Felix Gonzalez Bonastre developed parties, organized student participation and ballads along with other social events during Carnaval. Since then, masquerades are enthusiastically embraced by attendees and have become a part of the annual tradition. In the mid-1940’s, women began to participate, starting with Dona Elia Flores de Gonzalez. During the early 1970’sthe Carnaval celebration entered a crisis and the beautiful fiesta became degenerate, monotonous and featured graffiti and violence. In 1975 the local City government took control of the activities with the fiesta gaining new momentum and little by little, reached new heights of popularity among the locals.
With the enthusiasm and support of the municipal leaders, German Garcia Padilla (1975-78) and Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez (1978-81) with local personalities like Adolfo Gracia Aguilar (Don Fito), Sra. Carolina Hernandez de Joaquin and Professor Isabel Solis Vera, the Carnaval celebration was revived. The celebration has year-to-year become a huge fiesta for the people and families of the island, providing a healthy diversion filled with glamour and excitement. We personally believe it is the best Carnaval in the State of Quintana Roo.
We are often asked a year in advance when will next year’s Cozumel Carnaval be held so we can plan our vacation to be on the island over Carnaval. Unfortunately, we usually only find out “Officially” in November or December of the current year, so that sometimes only leaves a few months notice for your planning the following year.
However, we can tell you this: Cozumel Carnaval (the MAIN celebrations) for the past few decades have always been held starting on the Wednesday of the week prior to Ash Wednesday! The final Carnaval parade is always held the evening of Fat Tuesday. There are no guarantees obviously until we receive the “Official” notification, but Cozumel Carnaval been consistently held during this time frame for years! Hope this helps!!!
The Cozumel Carnaval posters are very popular and many locals and visiting tourists have made them quite the annual Carnaval collector’s item over the years. Produced each year, their ever-changing designs, vibrantly stunning colors and beautifully unique artwork makes them quite the find if you can locate them. Cozumel Carnaval poster collectors often felt like they were on a “scavenger hunt” searching for the elusive yearly poster as in the past, various businesses were provided these to distribute (sometimes for free, sometimes they would charge for them.
We are excited that this year, 2019, you can pick up a “FREE” Cozumel Carnaval poster (while they last) at the Palacio Municipal / City Hall (located on Calle 13 Sur and just east of Avenida Rafael E. Melgar). Enter and go to the Evento Generales / General Events offices located there on the first floor. Hurry and get them as again, they are very popular and supplies will not last.