Last weekend was the annual Carnaval de San Martin Tilcajete, one of the few indigenous traditions that remain in Oaxaca. While I had no previous knowledge of the carnaval, I was pleasantly surprised to be a part of it.
After taking to my favorite research partner, Google, I was left with little information on the annual celebration. Instead, nearly all the information I gathered about their traditions was directly sourced from the local people.
The carnaval was first started by five families in the pueblo (town) of San Martin de Tilcajete and has dated back for generations. Residents in the pueblo dress up to take part in the parade first in the city of Oaxaca and then in their town.
Full disclosure, I ran into this parade completely by accident. Or more accurately, it ran into me. When I was walking through the city to get lunch, a few hundred people began walking along with me dressed in traditional clothes, carrying flowers and dancing in the streets.
The leader of the parade was a husband and wife and their giant paper mache look-alikes. I thought to myself, “Wow! People really go all out for weddings here!” And they do, but this was not an actual wedding but rather a part of the weekend-long festivities. Similarly, the husband and wife are two features of the parade.
Carnaval de San Martin Tilcajete takes place just before lent and features characters such as los diablos and los negritos (devils and warriors). These mischievous characters represent the evil that takes place just before lent.
This year, some non-traditional characters were included in the parade including mimes and drag queens. I’m not sure why these other characters were chosen and neither did the locals. Everything was in good fun and the light-hearted spirit of the carnaval could be felt by both locals and tourists alike.
To get the full Caraval experience, I followed the first one through Oaxaca and then went to the celebration in the pueblo, San Martin de Tilcajete.
Overall, I had a blast at the Carnaval. Dancing, taking pictures, drinking mescal and hanging out with great friends and locals. It was just another of the many examples of Mexican hospitality. Although, I’m sure attending the event with three other gringas (white girls) helped. The people here love to share. Whether it be their food, mezcal or history, they are happy to give to you what they can.
Below are some of my favorite pictures from the weekend. Check them out for yourself and let me know what you think in the comment section!