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 2020, Carnival — spelled Carnaval in Spanish and otherwise known as Mardi Gras north of the border — occurs on February 25. But the real events in Ajijic start three Sundays before on February 2 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 2020 parade schedule:
- Sunday, February 2
- Sunday, February 9
- Sunday, February 16
- Saturday, February 22
- Sunday, February 23
- Monday, February 24
- Tuesday, February 25 (Carnaval)
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, usually at 4:30 each day.
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.
The lienzo charro is the bull riding ring, located just east of Plaza Bugambilias on Calle Revolución:
In 2020, Carnaval Day (Mardi Gras) is Tuesday, February 25. The floats will start gathering at the starting point in Ajijic around 10:00 a.m. and the parade will start at around 11:00. It 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.
Last updated February 25, 2020
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.
Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala
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 Day in Ajijic, Mexico
Carnival in 2020 is February 25. This parade is different than the six pre-Carnival parades that come before. It has lots of floats, lots of spectators and lots and lots of flour.
Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala
After each of the seven pre-Carnval and Carnaval parades, there is a recibimiento (reception) at the malecón. Each afternoon is sponsored by a different person or family, who pay for the food, drink and music, which lasts until around 3:30. Most people then head over to the lienzo charro for the afternoon's rodeo and night of live music. The night usually ends relatively early, by 9:00 or 10:00.
Carnaval In Chapala
Chapala usually begins its Carnaval celebrations about five days before Carnaval. In 2020, it kicks off at 7 p.m. on February 20 with the "Entiero de Mal Humor" -- the burial of bad moods. The parade goes from the 7-11 on Avenida Francisco Madero and ends at Parque Christiana.
Chapala's main Carnaval parade doesn't take place on Carnaval but two days before (Sunday, February 23 at 10:00 a.m. in 2020). This is so the Carnaval activities in Ajijic don't conflict with those in Chapala. The route for this parade is on Avenida Francisco Madero.