Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico

Carnaval

At a Glance

Carnaval in Ajijic is one of the town’s most rambunctious fiestas, involving a major parade filled with allegorical floats & the town’s crossdressing masked sayacas.

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Carnaval is one of Ajijic’s most entertaining holidays, featuring the town’s traditional masked “sayacas,” who throw flour and chase the kids who taunt them during the town’s seven parades.

Pre-Carnaval Events in Ajijic

Carnaval in Ajijic lasts seven days and is spread out over three weeks, but due to the Catholic liturgical calendar, those exact dates vary year to year.

In 2019, Carnival — spelled Carnaval in Spanish and otherwise known as Mardi Gras north of the border — occurs on March 5. But the real events in Ajijic start four Sundays before with weekend parades that begin at 10: 30 a.m.

Here’s a video of the start of 2019’s Carnaval in Ajijic from earlier this month:

All the parades are organized by the town’s charros (cowboy) association, so there are lots of horses, cowboys and Ajijic’s unique tradition of the crossing-dressing masked sayacas, who chase kids through the street and throw flour at the crowds.

Here is the 2019 parade schedule:

  • Sunday, February 10
  • Sunday, February 17
  • Sunday, February 24
  • Saturday, March 2
  • Sunday, March 3
  • Monday, March 4
  • Tuesday, March 5 (Carnaval)

Carnaval Ajijic 2019 Schedule

Pre-Carnaval Parade Route

The pre-Carnaval parades start at 10:30 a.m. at a house on Galeana behind St. Andrew’s Church. It heads to the plaza, and then to Seís Esquinas (Six Corners) along Hidalgo, before turning east and heading to the town’s bullring via Constitución/Ocampo. (Constitución, like the other east/west streets in Ajijic changes its name to Ocampo once you cross Morelos).

Below is the parade route for the pre-Carnaval parades.

After the parade, there’s a reception and lunch on the malecón, to which you are invited. There’s music, some people dancing, drinking, eating, lots of fun. Fiesta time.

After that, check out the jaripeo rodeo in the lienzo charro at 4:30 each day. With two exceptions, the cost for the event is just a small donation. $50 pesos per person might be suggested. The event costs $100 on Sunday, March 3, and $120 on Tuesday, March 5.

Carnaval Ajijic

Local and sometimes out-of-state bull riding teams put on a show while a banda plays tunes all evening. The crowd slowly trickles in and by 6:30 or 7:00 the place is filled. It wraps up around 10:00.

Carnaval in Ajijic

Carnaval in Ajijic

 

Carnaval in Ajijic

The lienzo charro is the bull riding ring, located just east of Plaza Bugambilias on Calle Revolución:

 

Carnaval Day

In 2019, Carnaval Day (Mardi Gras) is Tuesday, March 5. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and ends about two hours later.

Carnaval Day Parade Route

The parade route for this day is different than the one pre-Carnaval parade route above.

The parade on Carnaval starts at the foot of the tianguis, where market day takes place, and proceeds west on Constitución/Ocampo. Once the parade reaches Seís Esquinas, it turns east and heads to the plaza along Hidalgo.

Recent Photos from Carnaval 2019 in Ajijic

There’s a photo essay after these photos with more information about what goes on during Carnaval in Ajijic.

Last updated March 2, 2019

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Photos of Carnaval

The Masked Sayacas of Carnaval in Ajijic

One of Ajijic's unique traditions are the sayacas, who form a core part of the town's Carnaval celebrations each year.

A group of sayacas pose for a photo after one of the parades which take place before Carnaval. There are six parades before carnival and some days are more popular than others. The Sunday before Carnaval is the best day to see the sayacas.

A group of sayacas pose for a photo after one of the parades which take place before Carnaval. There are six parades before carnival and some days are more popular than others. The Sunday before Carnaval is the best day to see the sayacas.

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The sayacas gather before each parade in this house to get dressed and ready for the 10 a.m. spectacle.

The sayacas gather before each parade in this house to get dressed and ready for the 10 a.m. spectacle.

Boys often dress up in women's clothing and vice versa. Kids who are about 5-20 years old participate.

Boys often dress up in women's clothing and vice versa. Kids who are about 5-20 years old participate.

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The sayacas put on masks and the dress code is 'elegant.'

The sayacas put on masks and the dress code is "elegant."

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The sayacas chase kids down during the Carnival parades.

The sayacas chase kids down during the Carnival parades.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Kids pose as marionettes on a moving float during the New Year's Day parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

The Puppetmaster Adjusts His Sombrero

Kids pretend to be living marionettes while riding on a moving float during the New Year’s Day parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

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The sayacas carry a bag of flour with them.

The sayacas carry a bag of flour with them.

People who dress as female sayacas carry purses, such as this Marc Jacobs purse, to keep the flour.

People who dress as female sayacas carry purses, such as this Marc Jacobs purse, to keep the flour.

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Which the sayacas use to throw and otherwise cover the crowd.

Which the sayacas use to throw and otherwise cover the crowd.

Until even the dogs are covered.

Until even the dogs are covered.

Doña Licha was responsible for organizing the sayaca tradition for several decades. She died in 2018.

Doña Licha was responsible for organizing the sayaca tradition for several decades. She died in 2018.

Accordion Player in Chapala

Traditional Mexican Music Genres

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See this Photo Essay
The sayacas walk through the streets of Ajijic during five pre-Carnival parades.

The sayacas walk through the streets of Ajijic during five pre-Carnival parades.

The kids taunt the sayacas into giving chase.

The kids taunt the sayacas into giving chase.

A group of sayacas confab to decide on who will be the next kid to tackle.

A group of sayacas confab to decide on who will be the next kid to tackle.

Sayacas work in tandem to take down a man and shower him with a purse full of flour in the town's lienzo charro.

Sayacas work in tandem to take down a man and shower him with a purse full of flour in the town's lienzo charro.

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A sayaca stands victorious over one of his tackled victims.

A sayaca stands victorious over one of his tackled victims.

After each of the pre-Carnaval parades, the crowd ends up here in the lienzo charro, where the charros (cowboys) practice the sport-art of la charrería.

After each of the pre-Carnaval parades, the crowd ends up here in the lienzo charro, where the charros (cowboys) practice the sport-art of la charrería.

After each of the pre-Carnaval parades, the crowd ends up here in the lienzo charro, where the charros (cowboys) practice the sport-art of la charrería.

After each of the pre-Carnaval parades, the crowd ends up here in the lienzo charro, where the charros (cowboys) practice the sport-art of la charrería.

More kids egg the sayacas on with taunts, mild obscenities & gestures.

More kids egg the sayacas on with taunts, mild obscenities & gestures.

Ruben laughs after getting showered in flour after one of the sayaca parades.

Ruben laughs after getting showered in flour after one of the sayaca parades.

A sayaca with a baby doll necklace poses for a portrait.

A sayaca with a baby doll necklace poses for a portrait.

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Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Dance of the Little Old Men

Dance of the Little Old Men

A boy in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, performs La Danza de los Viejitos, the Dance of the Little Old Men, a traditional dance from Michoacan.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print
This boy's mask wouldn't stay on, so he took it off. With a fist full of flour, and his other hand stuffed into his flour-filled purse ready as a backup, he's eyeing a girl across the street that he'd like to engage next.

This boy's mask wouldn't stay on, so he took it off. With a fist full of flour, and his other hand stuffed into his flour-filled purse ready as a backup, he's eyeing a girl across the street that he'd like to engage next.

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Valentina Jiménez drinks a Victoria beer during the parade.

Valentina Jiménez drinks a Victoria beer during the parade.

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A boy dressed as a sayaca.

A boy dressed as a sayaca.

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A boy dressed as a sayaca before the parade.

A boy dressed as a sayaca before the parade.

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A dad requests a photo with his son during one of the five pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

A dad requests a photo with his son during one of the five pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

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San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

San Cristóbal de las Casas: Mexico’s Rebellious State in the South

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See this Photo Essay

In the Lienzo Charro After the Pre-Carnaval Parades

Each of the five pre-Carnival parades ends at the town's lienzo charro. The best translation might be "bullring," but this is a ring for riding bulls, not killing them.

At the end of the parades, kids and sayacas chase each other for about 15 minutes. Kids who successfully escape the sayacas' attack get enormous roars from the audience, which on some days reaches 1,000 people. (The Sunday before Carnaval is always the most popular day with the most sayacas.)

Carnaval
Immediately after the 15 minutes of sayacas, and without any official warning, a bull is let loose in the ring. It's a sign of bravery to straddle the wall and let the bull get as close to you as possible.

Immediately after the 15 minutes of sayacas, and without any official warning, a bull is let loose in the ring. It's a sign of bravery to straddle the wall and let the bull get as close to you as possible.

But sometimes too close is close enough.

But sometimes too close is close enough.

Then there is a little bull riding.

Then there is a little bull riding.

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A man winces after being thrown from a bull.

A man winces after being thrown from a bull.

Regino Flores thrusts his sombrero into the air and yells, '¡Viva México, cabrones!' Regino offers horseback rides in Ajijic and other areas along Lake Chapala.

Regino Flores thrusts his sombrero into the air and yells, "¡Viva México, cabrones!" Regino offers horseback rides in Ajijic and other areas along Lake Chapala.

Regino Flores exits the lienzo charro.

Regino Flores exits the lienzo charro.

Boys watch the bull riding under the gaze of the Virgin Mary.

Boys watch the bull riding under the gaze of the Virgin Mary.

Carnaval Day in Ajijic, Mexico

Carnival in 2019 is March 5. This parade is different than the five pre-Carnival parades that come before. It has lots of floats, lots of spectators and lots and lots of flour.

Carnaval in Ajijic is filled with flour. Don't expect not to be covered in flour if you stand with the rest of the crowd on the sidewalk as the floats go by.

Carnaval in Ajijic is filled with flour. Don't expect not to be covered in flour if you stand with the rest of the crowd on the sidewalk as the floats go by.

A Carnival float with a fake banda with fake instruments.

A Carnaval float with a fake banda with fake instruments.

Accordion Player in Chapala

Traditional Mexican Music Genres

See this Photo Essay
See this Photo Essay
A real banda with real instruments.

A real banda with real instruments.

Carnaval
A boy with a feathered mask sits on a float in front of balloons during the Carnaval parade.

A boy with a feathered mask sits on a float in front of balloons during the Carnaval parade.

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A young charro drinks his Yoplait while riding in the parade.

A young charro drinks his Yoplait while riding in the parade.

Two girls ride on a horse while a butterfly passes overhead.

Two girls ride on a horse while a butterfly passes overhead.

Carnaval
The local association of charros always forms an important part of the Carnaval and pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic.

The local association of charros always forms an important part of the Carnaval and pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic.

Gerardo López Pimienta offers a drag off his bottle of tequila during the Carnaval parade.

Gerardo López Pimienta offers a drag off his bottle of tequila during the Carnaval parade.

Sayacas during the Carnaval day parade. With so many floats and people, the sayacas spend more time on Carnaval day dancing and throwing flour than chasing kids through the streets.

Sayacas during the Carnaval day parade. With so many floats and people, the sayacas spend more time on Carnaval day dancing and throwing flour than chasing kids through the streets.

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Sayacas try out a mechanical bull on wheels, which turned out to be a favorite float with the crowd.

Sayacas try out a mechanical bull on wheels, which turned out to be a favorite float with the crowd.

Día de los Angelitos

Day of the Little Angels: Remembering Children on the Day of the Dead

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See this Photo Essay
A sayaca throws confetti during the Carnaval parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

A sayaca throws confetti during the Carnaval parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

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Carnaval
Carnaval
Carnaval
Carnaval
Jorge 'Churro' Beltrán dressed as a Mexican wrestler during Carnaval. Carnaval has a queen, king and a jester each year. Churro was the jester in 2017.

Jorge "Churro" Beltrán dressed as a Mexican wrestler during Carnaval. Carnaval has a queen, king and a jester. Churro was the jester in 2017. Churro is a talented painter.

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Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Aztec Dancer on Mezcala Island

Aztec Dancer on Mezcala Island

Jaime Rodríguez stands on top of the fort walls on Mezcala Island, a half-mile stretch of land rising out of Lake Chapala, Mexico. A local indigenous group successfully used the island as a fortress against the Spanish during the War of Independence in the early 19th century.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

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