Finally Carnival Again
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As in many countries and cities around the world, the restrictions imposed by the Corona pandemic have made it very difficult to plan and carry out major events in the last two years. Of course, this was also true for the legendary Carnival of Holbox Island in Mexico, which could only be held in a very limited way since 2021. This year we looked forward to the “Carnaval de Holbox 2023“, which took place from February 17th to 21st.
After the usual long journey to Holbox Island, we arrived two days late on the evening of February 19th. Our flight, which had been booked for some time, was postponed by the airline at short notice due to a strike at German airports. Although this meant that we missed the first two days, our expectations for this event were exceeded.
By the way, the Holbox Carnival takes place every year between the end of February and the beginning of March, although the exact date always varies a bit and is only fixed shortly before. This is generally the best time of year to visit the island, as it is in the middle of the dry season and it is already very warm, but not as hot as in the summer. However, for those seeking peace and quiet, Carnival days are not recommended.
Right Into the Action After Arrival
After checking into our room in the small, somewhat remote, but very quiet EncantaLuna accommodation, we freshened up a bit. Even though we were exhausted from the long journey, we went straight to the center, where the spectacle was already in full swing. First we had to withdraw some cash in Mexican pesos, which fortunately worked without any problems at the ATM on the first floor of the police station. From there we had a good overview of what was going on in the main square.
We were getting hungry, so we went to one of the typical street stalls, which are especially numerous in Holbox during carnival time. There were delicious tacos, burritos, quesadillas and many other Mexican dishes of the highest quality, so we quickly found what we were looking for.
Afterwards we walked around the main square. It did not take us long to find the first show, which was performed by the locals with great passion. The performance by a group of women dressed as red birds of paradise with magnificent headdresses and long feathers took place right on the sandy street and was accompanied by loud music from a small band.
It was not easy to get close to the dance group and watch the performance on this Sunday as they were surrounded by a large crowd. The accommodations on the island were almost full, as in addition to the tourists, many Mexicans from the surrounding towns had come to witness the colorful carnival activities.
As time passed, we got tired and so we went back to our quarters to get a good night’s sleep after the exhausting journey.
Rehearsals in the Afternoon for the Evening Performance
After a great breakfast, we spent the next day relaxing on the beach and in the late afternoon strolling through the streets of Holbox to see what has been happening here lately. Due to the increasing popularity of the island, which has been relatively unknown for a long time, they are working hard to expand tourism here, so you will find new shops, restaurants, hotels and other facilities with every visit.
It didn’t take long for us to be reminded of the ongoing carnival during our walk. In a side street we could hear music and a group was rehearsing for the evening performance. A few meters away, it was also very nice to see the different groups supporting each other in their preparations and even posing for a few photos in between.
In the evening things were a little more relaxed for us. A typical Mexican dinner at the long-established Restaurant y Pizzeria Edelyn brought the day to a close. The menu is still as simple as it was many years ago and the waiters seem as relaxed as if it was a normal day in the off-season. This impression didn’t last long, however, as the streets around the main square began to fill up and the first carnival group started their performance right in front of the restaurant.
Luckily, we had already finished eating, so we were able to watch the show right away. This troupe was dressed in white-turquoise robes and shawls and reminded us of Greek goddesses with their magnificent headdresses. An acquaintance of ours, Jeevy, also attended this performance and obviously enjoyed it.
Not far away another group started their performance. This time the costumes were reminiscent of cobras. The female dancers wore red dresses, the male dancers trousers with gold-black tops and both of them wore a diadem in the shape of a menacing cobra on their heads. Their faces were detailed with fangs and dark shimmering contours. Here too, the joy of dancing was not neglected and delighted the surrounding spectators.
When the show was over, we continued our nocturnal tour, following the sounds of music that could be clearly heard in the background. The different dance groups made their nightly appearances several times at different places around the main square of Holbox. And so we came across the next performance of another group already two cross streets away at the restaurant “Las Panchas”.
The ambitious women’s group was dressed as colorful dragons and performed their rehearsed dances in purple robes with blue wings. In the background, a small band played typical Mexican rhythms, and even the audience began to move to the music.
Before we knew it, it was already late at night and we retired to our room to be fit for tomorrow, the last night of the Holbox Carnival.
The Highlight of the Last Evening
The next day was similarly relaxed on the beach, with wonderful temperatures and a light, refreshing breeze. In the evening, the grand finale of the carnival began. The costumed dance groups paraded through the streets with their performances as they had done the previous days, and we followed them wherever they went.
The absolute highlight of this year’s carnival was certainly the group called “Tribu Na’vi”. They were clearly inspired by the legendary movie “Avatar”. In addition, there is a small adventure park on Holbox called “Pandora”, where small performances can be booked in an illuminated atmosphere, including extraterrestrial appearing food. The phenomenon of bioluminescence, which can be easily observed on Isla Holbox, has certainly contributed to this.
The costumes of the protagonists were fantastic. Dressed in blue robes with headdresses of shimmering black feathers, long blue tails, and perfectly made-up faces, they put on a highly professional show. The leader of the Na’vi gave an introductory magical speech, after which the rest of the dancers began their performance.
In between, there was even a little costume change for the ladies, who twirled around like butterflies with bright blue wings. The Na’vi chief’s wife was carried into the center of the scene on a wooden platform, and once again the members of the group performed their synchronized dance.
On a mobile stage in the background, a band dressed in military camouflage, along with appealing lighting, created an exuberant atmosphere. The effort was written on the dancers’ faces, they wanted to give it their all one last time before the end of the carnival.
The Grand Finale of the Holbox Carnival 2023
As we watched the performance, the other groups began to gather in the center. More and more people flocked to the large, colorfully painted dome in the main square for the final finale. The live band on the big stage fell silent, and with flaming torches and loud noise, a dance group decorated with palm leaves entered. The performers pushed their way through the crowd and climbed inside the dome for a final, unique show.
In dense clouds of incense mist, a bird-headed Mayan shaman adorned with feathers began to perform a magical ritual. Dancing ensued around him as the crowd cheered loudly. Then the Carnival Prince and Princess, Melina I and Rajuel I, who had presided over the event for five days, were bid farewell to great applause.
After the ceremony, the celebration reached its climax when the Mexican band “El Fresa y la Sentencia” took the stage again. The atmosphere was great and dancing, eating and drinking continued into the early hours of the morning, as is customary in Mexico on such occasions.
We ourselves stayed in the action for a while before falling into bed, tired but happy and impressed by this eventful evening. The memories will stay with us for a long time, even if we could not describe everything in detail here. That’s why we have put together some more impressions for you:
In any case, we are already looking forward to next year’s carnival. Because we don’t want to miss the “Carnaval Holbox 2024“.