Carnival was officially inaugurated here in 1898, and those lucky enough to visit during the week before Lent are treated to the modern Mazatlan Carnaval, the third largest carnival celebration in the world.
One of the most enduring of Mazatlan tourist attractions, Carnaval Mazatlan, centered on the Malecon, is a now an over 120 year tradition that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.
This multi-day Mardi Gras celebration features parades, fireworks, live music, delicious food and great street entertainment set on the picturesque Mazatlan Malecon oceanfront, within the Centro Historico and at other locations throughout Mazatlan.
The tradition of mid-winter festivals in Mazatlan is as old as the city itself, with masquerades and feasts referenced in histories that date from the time of the earliest setters in the early 1800s.
It is suggested by some historians that these festivals originally reflected the traditions of the indigenous population -- with some Spanish influence, much like the melding of early religeous practices. These celebrations are noted as early as 1823, immediately after Mexico became an independent nation and our port became even more open to international commerce.
Though "Carnaval" was noted in Mazatlan as early as 1848 -- it was mentioned in the Mazatlan newspaper La Lechuza -- it wasn't until 50 years later than the event took its present form as a week-long multi-event blow-out complete with parades, floats, social events and an official King and Queen.
The very end of the 1800s -- 1898 to be exact -- marks when Mazatlan officially embraced the Mardi Gras tradition of Carnival, and there has been no turning back from this massive annual public party!
History notes that the early Mazatlan Carnivals -- pre 1898 -- were informal and often somewhat vulgar. Women threw flour and hollow eggshells (cascarones) filled with glitter, and men responding by tossing ashes and dyes at the women.
These earliest Mazatlan Carnavals also included mock battles where rival groups -- dock workers and market workers -- shouted insults and taunts and threw rocks at each other.
But in 1898 civic leaders headed by Dr. Martiniano Carvajal and a committee with an international flavor -- it supposedly included an Irishman, a German, a Spaniard and an Italian -- organized a parade made up of carriages and bicycles "to eradicate the immoral flour and replace it with the pure and more restrained confetti."
The event was focused within Plaza Machado and the nearby Centro Historico streets, but rapidly carnival spilled out of the Centro Historico and spread north from Olas Altas Beach up Paseo Claussen.
Modern Mazatlan Carnavals have themes that serve to unify the appearance of the floats, dancers and other performers.
The tradition of a carnival theme dates from 1943, when Mexico had just joined the allied side in WWII after German submarines had sunk Mexican ships. Mazatlan decided to create a theme for the 1943 carnival that expressed the hope of victory: "El Carnaval de la Victoria" - The Carnival of Victory.
In 1962 the concept of a carnival theme became official, and each Mazatlan Carnaval since has had an official theme, the 2022 theme being Lanao.
The parades and events of the modern Mazatlan Carnaval now stretch north of the Golden Zone and into neighborhoods inland from the Malecon and, while todays Carnaval may not involve tossing flour, it is hardly restrained!
Mardi Gras in Mazatlan is one of the biggest and best bashes anywhere in the Americas that sees thousands of costumed revellers thronging the Malecon and beaches.
The modern Mazatlan Carnaval combines the best of the history of traditional carnivals with the excitement of modern technology -- each evening of Carnival Week the Malecon, Olas Altas Beach and the Centro Historico become the perfect stage for this singing and dancing Bacchanalia, with parades, outdoor concerts, fireworks, sound and light shows and beer for everyone stretching farther north than the eye can see!
The 2024 Mazatlan Carnival will take place from February 8 to 13. Be a part if it.
• A large portion of the concerts and musical events at carnival take place on the Malecon at Olas Altas beach and in the Centro Historico adjacent to it.
• Tickets for major Mazatlan Carnival events are purchased at the Angela Peralta ticket office -- even the events in Estadio Teodoro Mariscal / Venados Stadium -- after New Year.
• Spectacular fireworks play a big part in Mazatlan Carnival celebrations, with the largest show, Combate Naval, being staged on the Saturday night of carnival.
In recent years the traditional fireworks shows have been augmented with modern technology -- lights and lasers -- as well as music.
• No person is more central to Carnaval in Mazatlan than the Queen.
The first two Mazatlan carnivals -- 1898 and 1899 -- were presided over by an Ugly King (Rey Feo), a buffoon-like character. But that changed permanently in 1900 when a lovely North American named Wilfrida Farmer became the first Queen of Carnaval.
The beautiful Queen is now paired with Rey de la Alegría (King of Joy -- Rey Feo was re-named in 1965) who remains a part of the festival but is certainly not its superstar!
• Early parades were simple affairs -- people on bicycles, some costumes, some acoustic music. The modern Mazatlan Carnival parade is far from that, and incorporates all manner of sound systems, lights, costuming and glitter.
Parades are a very big part of Carnaval in Mazatlan -- as they are for carnival celebrations throughout the world -- and the floats, dancers and marchers in Mazatlan are world-class.
Carnival in Mazatlan is without a doubt one of the most vibrant celebrations in Mexico, and well-worth a trip to Mazatlan. Visit the 2023 Mazatlan Carnaval, experience the excitement and form memories that you will hold dear for the rest of your life!
How do you know when Carnaval is coming? Monigotes on the Malecon!
A few weeks before Carnival, strange beings begin appearing on the Malecon. They are the Mazatlan Carnival Monigotes, some of the most fun public sculpture anywhere in the world!
The 2024 Carnival in Mazatlan - Schedules, news, upcoming event calendar, FAQ and information about concerts, parades, fireworks, king, queen and the history of Carnaval in Mazatlan