Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - On Saturday night, February 18, from 9 pm until midnight, the 4th Annual Puerto Vallarta Carnaval and Mardi Gras Parade will dance through the streets of the city from the top of the new Malecón to the end of Olas Altas. This parade, officially sponsored by the local government, is as unique and diversified as this growing, coastal Méxican resort town.
It is an event that brings together the modern with the traditional, the straight with the gay, hedonism with religion, and the young with the old, as Mardi Gras now does each spring in the entirety of the Latin world.
The Parade: A mariachi band marches behind a large, fabulously decorated float of singing drag queens. Traditional Aztec dancers pay homage to ancient Nahuatl speaking gods followed by a caravan of cars filled with spontaneously and rather rakishly dressed middle-aged revelers from a local Canadian-owned hotel.
This is then followed by a float from a local disco carrying beautiful young women posing and smiling provocatively. A local children's charity marches in homemade costumes waving and throwing candy to other wide-eyed children who also frolic in the warm spring night for this rare show.
Local beauty contest contestants ride next to a country western music playing Frida Kahlo themed float, which is followed by a troop of dancing horses. This parade has more than 100 entries and is a full 2 hours of contradictions, sexuality, humor, and surprises. All with that definite Vallarta flair.
Young Mexican couples line the roadside, holding hands, smiling at, and laughing with the costumed, beautifully decorated bodies of young men and women dancing and playing in the streets before them. Sun burned tourists stand mesmerized. Some of those on the sidewalks join in the dance and parade, melding easily with the costumes, music and colors.
To many spectators, this event appears to be more of a street party and dance than a parade. What might possibly in broad daylight raise an eyebrow or two in this sometimes reserved Catholic culture brings only smiles and applause in the spotlight of midnight.
The Puerto Vallarta Carnaval Parade is a young event. It has grown from a small procession promoting a few local gay nightclubs and charities into a major tourist attraction drawing thousands of spectators and promoting all of Vallarta.
Throughout the city, clubs and restaurants now host Mardi Gras parties in conjunction with this parade. The whole city comes alive on this last chance for "sin" before the celebration of Lent with its principles of self-denial and repentance. This parade is an old, once small, Mexican fishing village gone wild for a night.2010 and 2011