When we arrived in Veracruz, the town was bustling with excitement and it was difficult to find a room. Going from one place to the next, working our way down the list until we finally scored! The place we did find was nice, several floors high with an open center top to bottom like a big tube with balconies inside. I remember makeshift clotheslines strung between some of the balconies with clothes lightly flapping in the warm updraft.
We met another quite nice American couple there. They had been traveling for quite a while and had good information for us. I think we may have been the only “gringos” in the whole city. Soon we discovered why there was an electric excitement in the city, it was Carnival! We stumbled into one of the major Carnival celebrations in the world and we were there just at the right time! Honestly, it’s a miracle we got a room. We went out to the street and just soaked it all in, the street food, the costumes, and the intense energy!
People were graciously inviting us to join their party, and we did for a bit. We found out that the parade would start the next day and it would continue ALL DAY! That night as we lay exhausted in our room, we listened to the music’s swirling echoes rising up the building’s center as we finally fell asleep pondering what adventures the next day was going to bring.
Five o’clock in the morning erupted with startlingly loud meringue music blasting throughout the building. I guess there was no more sleeping in here! So, up we got! After a cold shower, we gathered ourselves and went to find some breakfast. The party was already going full tilt, or it had even ever stopped as people were lining the streets in anticipation of the Carnival Parade. We managed to find some tacos, but nothing like what we had eaten in the states. They were flat, about as big around as an orange with some sliced meat, some salsa, and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Bite-sized, and cheap so, you buy a few. They were great!
We found a place to be for the parade and we were again immediately incorporated into the party. Dancing, drinking, shouting, drinking, hooting and hollering, drinking, and partying down! Then the parade came rolling slowly by. The floats were intensely decorated with full color and each was a wild party unto itself.
Every float had its own sound system that was cranked to the max with buxom women in colorful feather-adorned headdresses and men that were all in very good shape wildly, gyrating, and dancing in a most provocative manner. It was awesome to see as each float tried to outdo the next! The parade lasts for eight hours and then reverses course to return for the next eight hours! We didn’t last the entire 16 hours of the parade. we had to crawl back to our room for a rest.
Saving the show
After a siesta, we did, however, wander back into town to where a grand stage was set up for the evening’s celebrations. The music was pumping as people were dancing on and off the stage. A band was setting up and preparing to play when, POP! …….silence! A frustrated crowd moaned their discontent. The sound system had blown out. From where we were, I could see the technicians backstage trying in vain to fix some wiring, but they didn’t seem to have any of the right tools on hand. Intrepid travelers that we are, I always carried my Leatherman multi-tool with me.
So, I bound down through the crowd, made my way backstage, and handed the thankful tech my Leatherman. After a few minutes, the crowd cheered as the music was back to pumping out the Carnival rhythms. Returning the tool, the relieved tech thanked me and I returned to my place with Donna. It was a great show and I was proud to have been a small part of it.
Several days of hard partying left our Carnival memory more than a little fuzzy around the edges. Finally taking a solid night’s rest, we were still a bit exhausted but decided we needed to start being tourists as well as travelers. We began researching our next move. Since religion and in particular, Catholicism is such a huge part of the Hispanic culture, we figured churches would offer a glimpse into the local life as well as feature some extraordinary art. This is still one of our favorite ways to get a taste of the local culture. Oaxaca seemed to have an extremely ornate church, which was what we were looking for. We decided to move on to Oaxaca.