This past weekend was Carnaval in Merida, and while it was not exactly what I expected it to be, it was fun. By that I mean, I expected it to be more parading through the streets of Merida’s Centro Historico with scantily-clad carnaval dancers followed by over-sized party float, fireworks, loud music, people crammed into the narrow streets being drunk and happy, and beads, lots and lots of beads – of course that last part may have been an unrealistic expectation based off misinformed “Spring Break” movies from my teen years…
While Merida’s Carnaval had most of the above, it was just all a lot tamer and more “county fair” than carnaval. For starters, the event and parades were not held in the streets of Merida, but about a 40-minute drive away at this massive fair-grounds complex. And instead of parading through the tight, cobbled streets of Merida, the parades marched along a fenced off dirt road that ran around the outside of the grounds lined with pay-to-sit seats (if you did not pay you stood behind the fence) with one free-sitting area that was small and jam-packed; the floats themselves were rather small, with a lot of vans with streamers taped to them, and all the larger floats were by the giant corporations of Corona, Coca Cola and others. The parades were by no means bad, but there definitely was nothing exciting about them either.
These fair grounds were massive though, with a couple main streets that were paved and flanked by storefronts, a couple concert stages, a decent number of the usual-type of carnival rides, and all sorts of street-food stands and a surprising amount of chain-restaurant kiosks. But, it was definitely the street food that really made carnival worth the trip. We gorged ourselves on carne asada nachos and tacos, giant Micheladas (a Mexican specialty of various varieties, but ours was beer mixed with lime, Worcestershire sauce and ice, rimmed with chili powder), and, of course, churros.
We also enjoyed a spin on a Tilter-A-Whirl-esque ride. Which, after being blasted by loud Mexican music, strobe lights and spinning about for an extended 10 minutes, left Valentina feeling slightly nauseous – or it could have been seeing an older dad-type in the car in front of us vomit a couple of times about halfway through – but Valentina soon recovered and was chowin’ down churros in no time.
All-in-all, Carnival felt more like a visit to a theme park rather than anything else.
Photos are a tad limited for this post as we left the good camera at home and opted for the point-and-shoot, which is not the best for taking photos at night and especially at distance; nevertheless, enjoy!