Celebrations / Mexico / Travel

Mardi Gras in Morelia: It’s All About the Bulls

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In Latin America, Mardi Gras is known as Carnaval, and here in Morelia the annual Carnaval Festival is called “Torito de Petate” – the festival of the “little bull made of woven reeds.” The operative word here is Torito … and they have bulls in all shapes and sizes!

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The concept originates from dances featuring sparring bulls that date back to the Spanish conquest of the New World. Over the years this concept has evolved into a fascinating neighborhood tradition. Groups from over 100 Morelia neighborhoods each create an elaborate “bull” that will be worn by an individual (much like building a float for a parade, but on a smaller scale). The Torito is often referred to as a “backpack bull” since it’s worn like a backpack.

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The culmination of the season was a parade last weekend that featured each neighborhood’s Torrito accompanied by a crew of helpers dancing to enthusiastic music. What a show!

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This little girl is stocking up on eggs … but not just any old eggs. These are cascarones – the signature mischief maker of Morelia’s Carnaval season.

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Cascarones (or confetti eggs) are hollowed-out chicken eggs filled with confetti. The goal is to throw them at someone or crush one over someone’s noggin. (You can imagine these in the hands of strapping teenage boys!)

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Some other towns even fill them with ketchup or mustard! Fortunately here in Morelia they’re just confetti … and just good clean fun.

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Having a cascaron crushed over your head is said to bring good luck.

Kids love Morelia’s Carnaval and put on their own shows around the Plaza Valladolid amid the vendors and spectators. This costumed troupe of four stair-stepped brothers danced enthusiastically to their uncles’ music for 30 minutes straight.

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But as we all know, when you’re done … you’re done.

So that’s it for Carnaval 2014. Hope you had a great Mardi Gras wherever you were,
Terri

40 thoughts on “Mardi Gras in Morelia: It’s All About the Bulls

  1. Great photos – sounds like a lot of fun, Terri.

    We have our ‘Mooba’ parade here in Melbourne next Monday and the whole weekend is all about getting together and having fun.

    • I love that Vicki. You never know what people will find to celebrate. When we lived in Eugene, Oregon we had a Celebration Parade that crowns a “Banana Slug Queen” every year! So what does “Mooba” stand for? ~Terri

    • I was thinking about the eggshells too, Laura, That’s a lot of scrambled eggs! And I read that some of the elaborate backpack bulls can weigh up to 250 pounds, so the guys trade off every few minutes. Wow! ~Terri

  2. I get the connection of eggs with the coming of spring and Easter. It is fascinating to contemplate how bulls integrated with Carnaval, which is rooted in observing Lent. I may not get the connection, but I love the colorfulness of the festivities. Your photos bring the celebration to life for me. – Mike

    • The whole “bull theme” was a new one for us too, Mike. As you well know, just about the time you think you’ve seen it all – there’s something new around the corner! πŸ™‚ And it seemed to be one of those traditions that nobody knew where it originated (like the Easter Bunny). But anything that pulls a neighborhood together is a good thing. ~Terri

    • My pleasure, Martha. it was a Mardi Gras unlike any we’ve seen before, so we were totally mystified – trying to understand what was going on. And when we asked people to explain, we got 10 different answers. ~Terri

  3. Morelia is still on our list to explore. We always loved the parades in Mexico and it seems the locals find so many reasons to have them. Love the cascarones!

    • LuAnn, this morning I spent several hours catching up on all your adventures in Mexico. Wonderful! We didn’t realize that you and Terry had lived here until we started this trip and you referred us to your great posts. And it seems like you traveled all over the country. This is only our second trip, so we have mucho more to explore. πŸ™‚ Thanks again for all the helpful info. ~Terri

      • My pleasure Terri. Even with being there a year there was so much more we wanted to explore. We never got to Morelia or to Oaxaca. 😦

  4. I love these parades. Next month we are off to Spain to see the Semana Santa in Siguenza. It’s a shame though that wherever you get a parade there are people selling the same sorts of junk!

    • Here in Morelia the street vendors aren’t so bad Andrew. It seems that in most of the plazas there are a couple of balloon vendors, and a couple of carts that are selling odds and ends. Who knows, there could be a vendor mafia and one Don controls all the spots in town. ~James

  5. Who in the world ever came up with ketchup or mustard to fill the eggs? We grew up with confetti eggs, like the cascarones and would ask mom to save egg shells for us for weeks. She wasn’t fond of blowing the egg out through the little hole, but anything for the kids, right.?
    It’s interesting that in other places the same hollowed out egg shells are painted with the national flag (Zagreb) and intricate artwork (Slovakia), many sold year round in gift shops as Christmas tree decorations. Quite entrepreneurial! Thankfully no liquid filling… Fun post!

    • I know Jonelle! Must have been someone who never did laundry. πŸ™‚ But I do love the tradition of the confetti eggs.
      We saw those beautiful eggs you describe in Croatia and Slovalia – so detailed and delicate. I knew they would never survive the trip home.
      We also did blown eggs as kids – not my Mom’s favorite project. But we sure thought they were cool. So glad you stopped by. ~Terri

    • Bronwyn, that is too funny … and I love the solutions you discovered. The eggs we saw hadn’t been handled very gently. The bottoms had been whacked out (the size of a 1 euro coin), then dried and filled with confetti (probably dumped in by hand), then tissue paper was glued over the hole and around the egg for decoration. Sounds like the perfect kid project to me! πŸ™‚ ~Terri

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