The carnival of Huejotzingo is unlike any other carnival in Mexico or in the world and it is famous both in Puebla and other parts of the country. The annual event can draw up to 35,000 visitors from both Mexico and abroad, and costs about 2 million pesos to produce. Only about 250,000 comes from the local government, with the rest coming from donations by the local residents. The costumed participants are residents of the municipality and range in age from five to over fifty, and many families have participated for generations. All of the costumes are produced locally, including the “Turkish” shoes (modified running shoes), hand-carved wooden muskets, and elaborately decorated pants, shirts, and other clothing items. Up to 10,000 are in some kind of costume for the event. The firing of the many muskets over the four days can use as much as five tons of gunpowder and there have been accidents which have resulted in injuries and even death. Historically, this carnival has been linked to both the pre-Hispanic festivities related to the god Tlaloc and the “flower wars” of the same epoch. There was a festival dedicated to the rain god, but this was transformed in the colonial period into a festival with masked dancers. Elements of the modern carnival are also said to allude to the wars, in which the objective was not to kill or conquer, but rather to capture warriors for sacrifice. The modern carnival event officially began in 1869 and has been held annually ever since.
Preparations begin in January, with a formal meeting/party on the first Sunday of the year. There is masked dancing to live music. This event is called desfiguros (disfigured) or los viejitos (the little old ones). Officially, carnival begins on the weekend before Ash Wednesday. Saturday begins with a parade at about four in the afternoon. The organizers of the year’s event, called generals, enter the municipal palace to have the municipal president sign a document turning over the main plaza of the town to the “general in chief.” Then the other generals hang banners around the center blocks of the city to announce that carnival has begun. For the next four days, people listen and dance to music, set off fireworks and more, but what makes the Huejotzingo carnival different is the reenactment of three elements of the area’s history and lore, which occur repeatedly over the course of the event. The first is the kidnapping of the daughter of the Corregidor by Agustín Lorenzo. The second commemorates the Battle of Puebla, and the last depicts the first marriage of Indians by Catholic rite in Latin America.
The corregidor’s daughter for 2011
Agustín Lorenzo was a bandit during the colonial period, whose story has since been romanticized. According to legend, he and the daughter of the Corregidor were in love. At the beginning of this reenactment, the woman who plays the daughter arrives at the municipal palace to climb up to the balcony to be kidnapped. The man playing Lorenzo arrives on horseback to take the woman, climbing up a rope ladder. He descends with the woman, who is already dressed in white. As the couple flees, they are pursued by lawmen also on horseback. Spectators, including those playing French and Mexican soldiers for another reenactment, generally cheer on the bandit and his bride. As those on horses leave, a small hut is burned on the main plaza. This is because it is said that Lorenzo carried the woman away to his hut and the Corregidor ordered it burned. The reenactment ends with the wedding of Lorenzo and the daughter by a priest and Lorenzo becomes an honest man. While this wedding is happening, on the other side of the same plaza, another wedding takes place. This is the reenactment of the first indigenous couple to be wed with Catholic rites in the area. Tradition states it was the first of its kind on the Americas.
The most extensive event is based on the Battle of Puebla, which occurred in the 19th century between French and Mexican troops in this region. For this, the residents of the four principal neighborhoods of the city are divided into four “battalions,” each headed by a “general.” Over all four days, these battalions, totaling about 2,000 people, participate in mock battles, firing their wooden muskets at each other, which fills the air with gunpowder smoke. During this time, the battalions eat together and even visit the graves of former members who have died. About thirty percent of the participants are women, who are dressed and masked as men. The four battalions divide into two battalions representing the French and two battalions representing the Mexicans. However, the uniforms are not historically accurate. The “French” are costumed as Zoaves and “zapadores”, which are based somewhat on French attire, but others dress as “Turks” complete with turbans. The Mexican side are costumed as “serranos,” “zacapoaxtlas,” and “apaches” (with headdress).
Each participant pays a fee of between 300 and 500 pesos to participate, along with buying the approximately four kilos of gunpowder they will burn over the event. The generals hire the bands that play for the four days, which cost about 60,000 pesos per band over the four days. Participants also put a lot of money into the costumes that they wear. The values of garments worn can be as high as 30,000 pesos, depending on the type of garment (zacapoaxtla, traje serrano, etc.) and the quantity and quality of the adornments. All carry wooden rifles or muskets, which are also decorated.
The zacapoaxtla is a shirt with loose pants made of natural cotton cloth. At the front and back they are adorned with colored stripes which are embroidered often adding sequins, beads and other elements. Added to this are white embroidered hosiery, bags that carry ammunition and/or a pistol holder. It is finished with a leather mask, which has a beard woven from real human hair. The traje serrano consists of a black cotton shirt and pants, with an animal skin around the shoulders, a hat made of palm fronds, and huaraches sandals. If worn with a pre-Hispanic headdress and jewelry, it is called a traje de apache. A zapador is an outfit with a shirt, a short blue jacket, and red baggy pants and an embroidered apron-like garment. The wearer also has a hat and a mask with mustache and beard. “Turco” (Turkish) dress consists of a white shirt and pants, with a small blue vest, a turban with a peacock feather, and a mask with a mustache and beard. They can also have silk capes embroidered with the images of Mexican heroes.
The most important day is Tuesday, when activities begin at one or two in the morning, with a gathering of food and drink by the battalions. At around six am, the participants eat the gathered breakfast and then go to the local cemeteries to pay honor to dancers who may have died during the year. At twelve pm, parades and other events take places similar to the days before. At six pm, the battalions are officially “dismissed” and partying until midnight begins.
The Carnival is extremely popular with local children, who are often seen on the streets in costume with miniature rifles. The Sunday after Ash Wednesday is reserved for a “Children’s Carnival” (Carnaval Infantil). In this event, there is strict control over the use of fireworks and gunpowder to protect the children.