05 February 2008

Domingo de Carnaval

Each year in the cities of Silao and Guanajuato in the State of Guanajuato and in certain other cities in Mexico on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday there is a custom for people to hit each other with egg shells that have been filled with confetti. It is my understanding that this custom dates from the time of the "Flower Wars" of the pre-Hispanic Aztec Civilization but it may also have its roots in certain festivals in Europe. I found a reference to the custom of cascarones in a book written by Frederick Starr in 1908 called "In Indian Mexico":

“In front of the treed space, were temporary booths erected for the carnival, in which dulces, aguas frescas, and cascarones were offered for sale. Hawkers on the streets were selling cascarones, some of which were quite elaborate. The simplest were egg shells, dyed and stained in brilliant colors, and filled with bits of cut paper; these were broken upon the heads of persons as they passed, setting loose the bits of paper which became entangled in the hair and scattered over the clothing. Some had, pasted over the open ends, little conical caps of colored tissue-paper. Others consisted of a lyre shaped frame, with an eggshell in the center of the open part. Some had white birds, single or in pairs, hovering over the upper end.”

In former times it was a custom for young men and women to circle the town square in opposite directions in a manner of a courting ritual and they would pelt the people whom they liked with confetti filled cacarones during Carnaval. In some cities the cascarones consist of nothing more than egg shells filled with bits of paper or flour but in places like Guanajuato and Silao the egg shells are decorated quite elaborately and fastened to wands. Every year I like to go to Silao which is only a short distance from my house in Irapuato to see the "cascarones" on "Domingo de Carnaval" which is the Sunday just prior to Lent. I usually buy several "cascarones" from the vendors to add to my collection of Mexican Folk art which unfortunately seems to be fading away. The work is priced very reasonably, about two dollars each, and many of the cascarones are made with incredible skill. The same ladies who make them are usually the vendors and it is obvious that they are very proud of their work. I took some pictures which you can see below to get an idea of what I am talking about.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.