Friday, February 24, 2012

The carnival

February 18th the internationally famous carnival of Huejotzingo began.  Tourists from Peru, Columbia, and other countries came to see the annual reenactment of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo and another local battle fought between a group of bandits and a magistrate and his army.  The carnival began in 1869 and has been celebrated every year since during the four days before Ash Wednesday.  Throughout the carnival, battalions of "warriors" - called huehues or zacapoaxtlas - fight mock battles, expending tons of gun powder, rocking the air with the constant explosions.  There are also dances, accompanied by lively music from local bands.  In addition, there is a "wedding" held between the daughter of the magistrate and the bandit, Agustin Lorenzo, and there are several parades.

Many of the participants also pass the days drinking heavily, often choosing cheap liquor.  Accidents and even deaths are common.  This year the low estimate of accidents recorded was 50, although other news sources report more than 60.  The excellent news is that no one died.

Although thousands of locals participate, and tourists also flock to see the mock battles and reenactments, Abraham and I decided to steer as clear as we could of the festivities.  The extreme noise, the danger of injury, and the amount of drunks wandering the streets with their loaded rifles helped us decide to stay out of the main part of the festival which was held in the town square (zocalo).  There was no way to avoid all of the commotion, because groups of costumed participants constantly passed the house, and we did go out every now and then. 
On the last day of the carnival, a group of huehues had brunch at a home near ours

Children often begin participating when they are very young

The huehues use masks and wigs along with their highly embroidered costumes

The cheapest costumes cost around 25,000 pesos, while more expensive ones cost around 50,000

In one day, around 10 tons of gun powder were exploded

Horses take part in the parades and battles

There are 5 different types of costumes: zapadores, turcos, zuavos, zacapoaxtlas and indios

The rifles are elaborately carved and hand painted

The schools let out during the carnival, although school bands join in parades

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