Every year in Merida, we have our version of Carnaval, the complex and grand celebration held in Rio de Janiero, New Orleans, and other locations. Merida’s is modest in comparison, but it is growing every year.
Apparently, the business community of the Paseo de Montejo is trying mightily to change the venue for Carnaval. I don’t know whether they are trying to do it for this year, which is unlikely, but it is a goal to rid the city of the huge crowds, the garbage, the noise, and the disruption.
They want to move it to the fairgrounds at Xmatquil, the enormous site about 15 miles south, originally built for for the Yucatan State Fair. Plenty of parking and lots of bathrooms. Not to mention water and power for food vendors and display booths for chachke vendors. And plenty of room for the parades.
Since Carnaval has traditionally been in town, and it is the people’s carnaval, many organizations are firmly against this move. The city belongs to the people, they say. It is the paseo of the people, the monuments of the people, an opportunity to come to town and have a great time. It’s a relatively small parade route, so everyone runs into friends, and eats specially made treats from small stands.
Plus the beer companies have a field day. They sell tokens from central booths which the consumer presents to the beer stands. The beer companies are major sponsors of Carnaval. Of course, they would have at least as much of a field day at Xmatquil.
I can see both sides. Years ago, Carnaval was a lovely, non-commercial celebration, very locally oriented, lots of children involved, etc. Now, we have those awful floats (IMHO) throwing out packs of toilet paper, cheap cups, and other commercial “gifts.” Barely-clad young women brought in from other states, gyrate to loud percussive recorded music, and throw kisses. Huipiles are present, but are NOT the order of the day.
Xmatquil is huge and well set up for large crowds. It is also fairly secure and there are good places for food vendors. In fact, the food would improve because there are facilities with real kitchens.
The proposal to move Carnaval includes providing free bus transportation there from downtown.
The prime motivations for moving Carnaval, however, have little to do with the welfare of Carnaval or of the audience. The motivations have more to do with the business community hating the invasion, the inconvenience, people peeing on their property, their inaccessibility to regular clients, the racket and the mess. They put up cyclone fences and hire security guards.
Besides, many of the businesses on the paseo cater to an upper class clientele, and when families from the pueblos begin arriving at 7 a.m. with their folding chairs and bags of home-made food, and sitting right in front of the carefully designed entryways and manicured properties, the business owners are offended. Actually repelled. And so, most likely, are their clients.
Something in me objects to the business people having the power to affect a decision like this based on their personal attitudes. But I can also see the logic behind moving Carnaval simply because it might make a better Carnaval.