Carnival of Mazatenango

Carnival of Mazatenango
Like many other countries around the world, Guatemala annually celebrates Carnival, a Western Christian festive season that occurs before Lent. The largest and most famous carnival celebration in Guatemala is held in Mazatenango, the capital of Suchitepéquez department. The Carnival of Mazatenango lasts for eight days, ending on Ash Wednesday.

The Mazatenango Carnival dates back to the colonial period just like most other carnival celebrations in Latin America. The tradition was brought here by Spanish settlers and then transformed under the influence of local customs. The Carnival was officially recognized by the Government of Guatemala in 1885. It has been held annually ever since with only two exceptions, 1909 and 1976.

The Carnival of Mazatenango begins on the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and ends on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The festivities include colorful parades, masquerade balls, the crowning of the Queen of Carnival, concerts, rodeos, and lots of dancing and music. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, so the floats are less elaborate than in Brazil or Argentina, but what the Mazatenango lacks in financing its participants make up with their exuberant spirit.

The epicenter of the festivities is the city’s main square. Vibrant processions pass through the center of Mazatenango, filling the streets with joy and holiday cheer. They include floats, dancers in colorful costumes, musicians playing traditional songs of both local and European origin, and more. When the parade is over, thousands of people gather at the fairgrounds where games, delicious local foods and energetic music make the massive street party even more enjoyable.

One of the most interesting carnival traditions in Guatemala is cascarones. Cascarones are brightly colored eggshells filled with confetti. Guatemalan children dress up in costumes, carry cascarones around and smash them on unsuspecting people’s heads, leaving their hair full of confetti. Most schools do not allow cascarones but only bags of confetti which are safer, but cascarones are still used in private parties.

Carnival of Mazatenango

Photo: Víctor Manuel Armas




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