Little-Known Mexican Carnaval Takes Over Philadelphia’s Streets

The Carnaval de Puebla in the city of Philadelphia is one of the biggest carnivals organized by people from Puebla living outside Mexico. Now in its 9th year, the day-long carnival brought together live bands, mole poblano and dancers wearing elaborate costumes of historical figures to commemorate Cinco de Mayo, the day of the famous Battle of Puebla where Poblanos had victory over the French invasion of 1862.

Some children dressed in Mexican peasant costumes to reenact the Cinco de Mayo battle where an outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French in Puebla, Mexico.
“It’s so good to see so many people together, each year it grows more and more. We can’t explain how this event grew when we first started out it was only 20 of us,” said Ismael Torres, one of the organizers.

Over the years, Philadelphia has become one of the largest hubs of migrants from Puebla in the US. Consequently, the Mexican population in this area maintains Poblano traditions including this colorful carnival procession which has been celebrated in Puebla for centuries. The event, with an estimated 3,000 attendees, takes place in South Philadelphia, a longtime enclave of the city’s Italian-American community.

“It’s very nice, I’m happy with this,” said Vera Mikstas who’s lived in the area for over 68 years.
One of the many longtime residents of South Philadelphia that came out to see the Carnaval de Puebla procession.
The Carnavaleros congregate and dance before marching down South Philadelphia Moyamensing Street.

This Carnaval de Puebla celebration with its costumed dancers and music does add to Philadelphia’s existing masquerade tradition.

The popular Mummers are one of the oldest masquerade groups in the country and based out of South Philadelphia as well. Historically, they’ve been descendants of other immigrant groups including the Irish, German and Italians. The Mummers signature event is the New Years Day parade which is held on one of the main avenues of the city and widely televised.

Jesse Engaard, a member of the Mummers, dances with other alongside Carnavaleros de Puebla during the procession.

Now, some members of the Mummers were invited to the Carnaval de Puebla as a way to work closer and discuss the possibility of the Carnavaleros to join next year’s parade — a first for the Carnavaleros tradition but also for Mummers’ history.

“This event is just as old as the Mummers’ parade. It’s another example of the same thing but coming from a different place,” says Mummer Jesse Engaard about the Carnaval de Puebla. “This would break down invisible color and language barriers because there isn’t a representation of people of color in the Mummers. It’s would be a huge step.”

The possibility of joining the Mummers parade held annually on the famous Broad Street is more than a symbolic gesture for the Carnavaleros.

“God willing, there is an accord. It’s an honor for us. Imagine marching down Broad Street? Who wouldn’t want that?” said Ismael Torres as he prepared to march down the street.

Want to know about Cinco de Mayo? Click on this neat video from the History Channel.

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