Philadelphia’s Carnaval de Puebla makes a grand return

In a flurry of colors and feathers, Philadelphia’s Carnaval de Puebla returned to Washington Avenue for a 12th year on Sunday.

The festival, rooted in the Mexican state of Puebla, can be a bizarre sight. The performers, called carnavaleros, adorn themselves in bearded masks and embroidered gowns.

Men slicked in silver body paint crack heavy, resonating whips onto the street. Bridled horses stride through the South Philly neighborhood, while participants can be spotted carrying anything from a stuffed coyote to a live chicken.

The parade has its origin in Huejotzingo, a town in Puebla in which a Mexican army defeated French soldiers on May 5, 1862.
The parade has its origin in Huejotzingo, a town in Puebla in which a Mexican army defeated French soldiers on May 5, 1862. (Angela Gervasi for WHYY)

The sounds of trumpets and tubas echo through the streets. The festivities attract thousands of people to the area.

It’s a sharp contrast to last year’s Carnaval, which didn’t officially happen. In 2017, the festival’s organizers cancelled in response to an increase in raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

The rate of immigration-related arrests has grown significantly since then. Still, Edgar Ramirez, an organizer of the Carnaval, said the need to continue the parade was great. “We have to return to the everyday,” Ramirez said days before the festival.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, an iconic image in Mexican culture, adorns the costumes of carnavaleros, the performers in the yearly festival, Carnaval de Puebla.
The Virgin of Guadalupe, an iconic image in Mexican culture, adorns the costumes of carnavaleros, the performers in the yearly festival, Carnaval de Puebla. (Angela Gervasi for WHYY)

Miguel Àngel Huilotl has been a carnavalero for about five years. For him, the Carnaval is a way to remain connected to Mexico.

“We’re here, far from our country. But still, we’re close,” said Huilotl in Spanish. A skullcap embellished with the word “MEXICO” clung to his head as he prepared a torta behind an open car trunk. “We feel close.”

 

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