The Ponce Carnival was selected by the Travel Channel for inclusion in their upcoming series on Great Carnivals of the World (with a projected audience of 95 million viewers for its July 4th USA holiday debut). Celebrating its 153rd anniversary in 2011 (March 2-8), it is considered one of the oldest of the Western Hemisphere.
It centers around the vivid costumed characters called Vejigantes. These marauding, mischievous colorful figures amuse onlookers indiscriminately swatting bystanders with their harmless vejigas (air-filled animal bladders), ostensibly to beat away any lingering evil spirits.
Legendary for their papier-maché devilish masks with lots of scary teeth and horns, Vejigantes dress up with one-piece coverall folkloric costumes made out of bright cloth with flamboyant capes. They dominate the historic downtown area of the City, ruling as undisputed stars of the show during the whole one-week event.
The Ponce Carnival coincides with New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and its world famous counterpart in Rio de Janeiro, as the “last chance” to celebrate before the long period of solemnity that brings the Christian season of Lent.
Calendar of events for the annual Ponce Carnival:
- Wednesday night - Vejigantes street party (Festival de Las Máscaras) in front of the Ponce City Hall.
- Thursday night - Parade marking the entrance of the mysterious bigheaded carnival King, known as Rey Momo.
- Friday night - Crowning parade and celebration of the infantile carnival Queen.
- Saturday night - Crowning parade and celebration of the adult carnival Queen.
- Sunday afternoon - Climatic main parade, complete with marching bands, spectacular floats, the carnival’s honorary Marshall and President, loud revelers and boisterous crowds.
- Monday night - Gran Baile del Carnaval, the traditional ball at the Ponce City Hall.
- Tuesday night – Entierro de Las Sardinas or the “Burial of the Sardines”, the mock funeral procession led by drag queens and chanting mourners to mark the end of the week long festivities.
The 2011 edition of the Ponce Carnival was dedicated to the heritage of local crafts' artisans, best represented by the Orta family of renowned Ponce wood carvers.
Santia Rivera de Orta, the widow of master carver Domingo Orta and a very well respected carver herself, was the designated President of the carnival.
View the expanded version of our Ponce Map, and check the user friendly icons conveniently indicating the exact locations of all the Ponce attractions mentioned in your guide.