The Carnival of Guaymas

"The Carnival of Guaymas" holds one of Mexico’s major Carnival celebrations, and is one of the oldest in the country.

The annual event begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and ends at the stroke midnight of the beginning of Lent. Events are held in several locations with a number of events, such as the yearly parade, extending over multiple days. It begins with the “Quema del malhumor” or “Hoguera” when an effigy of something or someone who has displeased the public is burned. Each year, the effigy represents something different.

The history of Carnival in Guaymas begins after the Reform War and French Intervention in Mexico, when Guaymas and the rest of the country experienced a period of peace and economic development. The success of Guaymas’ port attracted a number of European immigrants and visitors. Among these came the idea to organize a Carnival similar to those in Europe.

Guaymas’ first carnival is recorded in book called “El Viejo Guaymas” (Old Guaymas) written by Alfonso Iberri. It was one of the first to take place in Mexico. In 1888, the first Carnival Queen was María Zuber and the first King was Alfredo Díaz Velasco. The King and Queen were paraded on the streets of Guaymas in a coach, followed by coaches carrying their entourage. The event ended with a grand ball that night.

Initially, the Carnival event was restricted to the upper classes. The lower classes could only watch the annual parade, with the main focus being the balls given at various mansions. This tradition would continue until the Mexican Revolution. In 1913, Alvaro Obregon took control of the port, and the war devastated the area economically. Many of the businesspeople had sided with Porfirio Díaz and had to leave. However, the city wanted to keep the annual Carnival tradition. Various social clubs vied for control over the event, especially the naming of the Carnival Queen. The queen was determined by which group provided the most money for Carnival events, which led to widespread cheating and scandals, especially in the year 1927, when the military had to get involved to keep order.

The goal of the fundraising was to decorate the 13 de Julio Plaza as the event was now public. People came to the plaza dressed in costumes and the event drew people from neighboring cities. The event still had the yearly parades, now with floats and both private and public balls. Masks hiding identity were permitted, allow for the playing of practical jokes and even homosexuals took advantage of the anonymity.

By the 1960s and 1970s, the Carnival had evolved into an entirely popular event with mass participation, bringing in many visitors to the city. Sister cities such as El Segundo, California and Mesa, Arizona were invited to participate. After the inauguration of the Plaza de los Tres Presidentes, the event was moved to this larger plaza, which allowed for carnival rides and concerts by regionally and nationally known artists. The use of masks, however, became banned due to violence. The traditional queen is now popularly elected and the King has become the Rey Feo. (Ugly King) Over time, even the new plaza was no longer large enough to hold the event and an admission charge was instituted. Security was instituted as well as checkpoints for weapons. The coronation of a Gay King was begun and the number of floats participating in the parade grew.