Ponce Carnaval -The Sardine’s Funeral

Posted by Cassie

From the from Alcaldia

Imagine a mix of Mardi Gras, Halloween, Puerto Rican traditional music and dancing, high school marching bands all with a dose of Burning Man and surrealism. What do you have? The Sardine’s Funeral on the last night of Carnaval in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

B C Ponce
At the historic Parque de Bombas in Ponce

We headed down to Ponce on Tuesday afternoon (the day before Lent) with very little expectations. We heard something about the burial of the sardine. What does that even mean? Well, as we came to learn it is a raucous and very strange celebration mocking death and mourning the end of Carnaval. It is held in the historic town plaza of Ponce and there are lots of other fun things including a bomba dancing and singing show. This year it was a pretty quiet night, but the outlandish festivities made up for the low numbers.

Dancing with the bombas
With the young bomba dancers

There are also lots of vejigantes (folkloric scary figures to scare away the demons) walking around and occasionally startling people. In modern times a lot of them wore Halloween masks along with the traditional robes and cow bladders that they would beat. We found a few deflated bladders left around. It was rather weird!

Britton bladder
Britton with a deflated cow bladder -Yuck!

More scary clownsWith some of the scary clown/vejigantes

Scary clowns
More strange fun…note the balloon looking bladders they are carrying

Scary costumes
With a werewolf vejigante

It wasn’t until the funeral procession for the sardine that we saw some of the more traditional masks.

Sardines Funeral
Here you can see the sardine in the casket as well as some of the vejigantes

Cassie and the procession
Me and the funeral procession

Carrying the casket
Lifting and then carrying the casket onto the stage

Death welcoming
Death and a marching band

Strange parade cats
Crazy cat man? Plus creepy dolls…

The whole parade itself was a peculiar event, but the sardine and the wailing mourners took the cake. When they brought the sardine up on stage, they said a eulogy for all sorts of silly things including broken cell phones and flat tires. Then they lit a hang-man on fire in effigy. The whole thing was bizarre but they definitely put the “fun” in funeral.  

We ended the night overlooking the entire scene from high atop a luxury hotel building. We then danced our way out listening to the final band playing “Hot, Hot, Hot” and limboed lower laughing all the way. I would highly recommend the Ponce Carnaval that lasts 5-7 days before Lent every year. And for the strangest event ever, come the night of the Sardine’s funeral!

RIP SardinaRIP La Sardina!

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