What is carnival in Veracruz?
Mexican Carnivals are without a doubt some of the most exuberant celebrations that you’ll find anywhere in the world! And Veracruz hosts one of Mexico’s biggest and best carnival celebrations! Veracruz Carnival is considered “El más Alegre del Mundo”, which in English translates to “The World’s most cheerful carnival”!
Veracruz Carnival is undoubtedly the one of the most famous carnivals in Mexico! It is also one of the most ancient, with its celebrations having begun back in the early eighteenth century and it also attracts the greatest number of people, with nearly one million people coming out to celebrate carnival!
The city of Veracruz practically shuts down during carnival as hundreds of thousands of visitors from all throughout Mexico descend on it to join in the carnival celebrations. The streets are packed and those without hotel rooms, just live in their cars during carnival.
The people of Veracruz called Jarochos, are known for their cheerful disposition and easy-going nature. Their exuberant nature and Afro-Caribbean roots mean that Jarochos love to party! The atmosphere in this port city is one of music, laughter and leisure all year round! Veracruz Carnival is and expression of the festive and welcoming culture of this city!
Veracruz Carnival is an uninhibited and colorful celebration! Carnival is filled with amazing parties, parades, live music and events in the lead up to Ash Wednesday. It is a celebration that unites everyone regardless of class or ethnic background and gives them an opportunity to enjoy life, have fun, eat and drink in excess, and party until the break of dawn!
When is Veracruz Carnival?
Veracruz Carnival is always held in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of lent, a period of 40 days before Easter. The dates of carnival are not always the same because it depends on the dates of Easter, which is based on the lunar calendar. Good Friday corresponds to the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
The dates for the 2022 Veracruz Carnival will be from Wednesday, February 23 to Tuesday, March 1.
Where is Veracruz Carnival?
Veracruz, officially known as Heroica Veracruz, is a municipality on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican state of Veracruz, in east-central Mexico. This major port city is home to a blend of different cultures, mainly indigenous, ethnic Spanish and Afro-Cuban.
The Zocalo is where many of the official carnival activities take place. Including the live entertainment, the opening and closing of carnival, and where the Indians who’ve walked a day’s journey from their villages, sell their handicrafts on blankets on the sidewalks.
What is the history of Veracruz Carnival?
The roots of Veracruz carnival extend back to colonial times and was first held in 1866, when the country was ruled by Emperor Maximiliano. It was a period of celebration before the onset of Lent. Carnival was seen as the last chance to let loose so that one can be ready for the sobriety and temperance that characterizes Lent.
The celebrations at that time were European traditions and were mainly “Fiesta de Mascaras”, masquerade balls and parties that were held in private. However, permission was granted so that the city’s popular classes, could gather for wild outdoor street celebrations.
Residents living in neighbourhoods that were located outside of the city wall, forged new forms of dance and music that were drawn from African, European and Indigenous traditions. And in the late 18th-century, carnival revellers in the port started to wear colorful costumes and dance to African-derived chuchumbé.
When French Emperor Napoleon III sent an occupying army to Mexico in 1861, carnival had grown to include several public parades and dances. But the war between the republican and French forces took a turn in the late 1866 and many regulations were placed on carnival, limiting it from two weeks of partying, down to three days with many strict regulations.
The post-revolutionary coalition in 1925 embraced carnival as an inclusive revolutionary ideal of “Mexico for the Mexicans,” and worked to re-establish the event in the city. Organizers hoped Carnival would provide Veracruz with an opportunity to celebrate after years of social strife and unite people of different classes and ethnic backgrounds!
The Main Events of Veracruz Carnival
- Preludio de carnaval
- The Burning of the Bad Mood
- Coronation of the Children
- Coronation of Reyes de la Alegria
- The Carnival Parades
- The Burial of Juan Carnival
How do they celebrate carnival in Veracruz?
Carnival begins with the “Burning of Bad Mood” (Quema del Mal Humor). This is where an effigy of an unpopular political figure is burnt to symbolically represent the people leaving behind everyday worries and concerns, so that the merriment can begin.
A highly anticipated event of carnival is the coronation of the Carnival Queen and King, who will preside over the festivities. The Carnival Queen is generally the local representative of beauty while the King is usually a gross representation of the Roman deity of mockery and craziness and mockery, Momo. Together, they are in charge of transmitting happiness to their subjects!
After the coronation there is one of the biggest dancing parties to ever be held in Mexico! Carnival also has extravagant parades that wind through the city, where you can admire the intricate costumes, colourful floats and comparsa dancing groups. While revellers are out wearing creative and funny carnival costumes.
Throw in some fireworks, samba music, dances, handicrafts, carnival rides, carnival games, folklore shows, the typical “bastoneras”, live music, great food, traditional Mexican music of harps, marimbas and guitars, children parade and street parties! Add all this up and Veracruz Carnival adds up to be one of Mexico’s greatest fiestas!
Throughout the heightened atmosphere of Carnival, the zocalo, in Veracruz city centre, is the place where many carnival events occur. A stage is set up which has entertainment, shows and performances that begin daily around midday. Enjoy live music, dancing troupes and jarocho shows. In addition to the official entertainment, there are dozens of street musicians performing all around the perimeter.
Salsa music is the heart and soul of Veracruz Carnival and expect to hear it everywhere you go! More than any other carnival activity, visitors to Veracruz Carnival should not miss the chance to dance at the zocalo alongside many other excellent Jarocho couples. Cumbia, salsa, samba, reggae, marimba and a music and dance known as Danzón are popular.
Carnival finishes with the ‘burial of Juan Carnaval’. The spirt of this carnival is personified by a figure called “Juan Carnaval” and on Shrove Tuesday, he is buried, marking the end of nine exhausting days of carnival celebrations! The next day is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, starting the period of religious reflection and penitence which serves as purification and preparation for Easter.
How to get to Veracruz?
- By Plane: Veracruz has a small international airport – General Heriberto Jara International Airport. Flights come in from many Mexican cities, including Mexico City and there are direct flights from Houston and Texas.
- By Bus: The ADO bus station is located only a short distance from the city centre and a bus trip to Veracruz from Mexico City takes about 5.5 hours. From Puebla a bus trip takes 3-4 hours.
- By Car: Veracruz is approximately a 5.5-hour drive from Mexico City. To get a quote for a car rental click here.
How to get around Veracruz?
Taxis are very inexpensive, and they are plentiful. A journey costs between US$2.50- $5.00 depending on the zone your destination is located in. Passengers are advised to negotiate on the cost before entering a taxi.
You can take the Bus “Boca del Rio”, as its path almost goes across the Boulevard of the City to the downtown of “Boca del Rio”, a city joined with Veracruz. Most of the other public buses are not recommended for tourist as they are old, in bad condition, crowded and hard for tourists to navigate.
Where to stay in Veracruz?
One of the best places to stay during carnival is the Historic Centre. This is because it is the closest to all the carnival celebrations, the city’s monuments and the port, which give it a vibrant dynamism which invites you to get familiar with the city and its lively nightlife.
The Zócalo de Veracruz, the main square for carnival activities is located here. The square is also surrounded by bars and restaurants, street vendors, musicians making it a very special area to be in.
The historic centre is also home to many of the city’s best attractions like the Assumption Cathedral, the Plaza Mayor, The Muncipal palace, the Reformation Theater and the Venustiano Carranza Lighthouse.
It is one of the best areas to stay in Veracruz for nightlife with places like Los Porales, a place where locals come together to drink and enjoy the typical cuisine. The Historic Centre is also recommended because it has bus lines to move to other places. There are a great range of hotels that promise an unforgettable stay.
Some great accommodations in the Historic Centre include Emporior Veracruz (US $240 per night), Fiesta Inn Veracruz Malecon (US $154), Hotel Veracruz Centro Historico (US $60), Hotel Trianon Veracruz (US $60), Hotel Imperial Veracruz (US $53), Hotel Plaza Centro Historico (US $26) and Hotel Acapulco (US $29).
Another great place to stay is the Malecon de Veracruz which is the Seafront Promenade. Many carnival activities also occur around here and during carnival it is always buzzing with people enjoying life!
This a must visit destination in Veracruz, it is a promenade that stretches from the city centre to the beach. Nights on the Malecon are spectacular because of the amazing views that are obtained when the buildings are lit up. In addition to the board walk, the Regata beach is a great place to visit with fresh crystal waters and the city’s best seafood restaurants!
There are some really great hotel options here too. The hotels on the Malecon that are closets to most of the carnival celebrations include DoubleTree by Hilton Veracruz (US $71) and Múcara Hotel (US $60), Hotel Mar y Tierra (US $34).
Check out some great accommodation deals in Veracruz here.
What to do in Veracruz?
Veracruz is an amazing place to visit! It has a reputation for its warm welcoming atmosphere, vibrant mix of melted-down cultures, it has a long and interesting history, great food, great beaches, colonial architecture, the sea as the horizon and the air is filled with the marimba beats.
This is Mexico’s oldest European settlement that was conceived in 1519. From strolling the Malecón to visiting nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites and ruins, you’ll find plenty to do and see in this port city.
Some of our top recommendations include listening to music in the Zocalo. Jarochos are very friendly and their deep attraction for their alluring yet intangible city soul can best be felt at the zocalo. All year round, people sit in the many cafes drinking coffee, chatting for hours all while listening to the haunting strains of marimba music with echoes off the historic buildings and tall trees. Most evenings, there are dancers dancing the danzón here that you can watch.
You must stroll the Malecon! The Veracruz boardwalk is a relaxing place to stroll where you can enjoy the beautiful views and glimpse at the working’s of Mexico’s largest port as you pass by cargo and military ships. There are also amazing street vendors and shops along the way where you can purchase beautiful handicrafts and enjoy the many street performers, entertaining people.
Visit el Baluarte de Santiago which was in 1635 and is now the only visible remnant of the defensive wall that once surrounded the port city. Inside the museum you can visit the “Las Joyas del Pescador” (the Jewels of the Fisherman), an exhibit of pre-Hispanic jewellery and weapons.
Also visit San Juan de Ulua, this fortress is one of Veracruz’s most important landmarks. Located on Isla Gallega, a small harbour island, it protected the city against pirates. Construction began in the mid-1500s and for hundreds of years it served as the primary military stronghold of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.
Visits the Acuario de Veracruz, one of Veracruz‘ biggest attractions and is said to be the best of its kind in all of Latin America! This aquarium does an awesome job of showcasing the denizens of the Gulf of Mexico. Situated 2km south of the city centre, on the waterfront it is filled with tiger, reef and nurse sharks, eagle rays, and barracudas. Visitors participate in shark feedings all year round!
While Veracruz is not Mexico’s most popular beach destinations, the beaches are very beautiful and offer a great way to find relief from the tropical heat. The Villa del Mar beach is within walking distance from the aquarium, another close beach is in Boca del Río. Further away, you can also visit the beaches at Punta Mocambo or Punta Antón Lizardo, which is a great spot to explore the Veracruz Reef System.
Take a Day Trip to Tlacotalpan. This UNESCO heritage city has stunning colonial-period architecture and a relaxing pace. It is only about two hours from Veracruz and a must visit. Or visit the Cempoala Archaeological Site located 27 miles north of Veracruz. This was the capital of the Totonac civilisation, who inhabited the lands when the Spanish Arrived.
Is Veracruz Carnival Safe?
Veracruz is generally is considered to be pretty safe especially in the more touristy areas. The main issue is petty crime like pickpocketing due to large crowds. The city has a strong police presence to protect tourists and this is amplified during carnival. As long as you are smart and stay aware of your surroundings you will be fine.
Lock your doors and windows, leave your valuables like jewellery, passport etc back at your hotel, and choose a hotel with a safe, where you can lock up your valuables. Only bring some cash out with you or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in. If you must take your phone out with you, don’t have it on show for long.
Also, you may be interested in Mazatlán Carnival, which is Mexico’s other huge carnival celebration!
Take a tour!
Veracruz is so full of culture, history, natural beauty and amazing food, there is so much to see and do and experience! Check out Viator who have loads of amazing tours! Or if you are lucky enough to have a longer vacation then definitely check out Tour Radar which has lots of different cool itineraries for longer vacations in Mexico, where you can just enjoy the good life without the hassle!
Before you go!
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