El Carnaval de Ponce or Carnaval Ponceño (Ponce Carnival) is Puerto Rico’s big traditional carnival. Ponce is Puerto Rico’s big southern city, so it is less Americanized than the capital San Juan.
Vejigante is Puerto Rico’s most beloved carnival character. There are two kinds of Vejigante mask. The papier-mâché style is from Ponce.
Ponce Carnival 2023
Ojalá (hopefully), Ponce Carnival returns in all its glory to Ponce, Puerto Rico, Thu, Feb 16 – 21, 2023.
Ponce Carnival 2022
Ponce Carnival is confirmed for Sat-Tue, Feb 26 – Mar 1. discoverpuertorico.com 🇵🇷
Carnival and fiestas patronales (patron saint festivals) in Puerto Rico always involve various barrios (neighborhoods) around town. It might be a legacy of the Puerto Rican Parranda tradition where holiday celebrations build from house to house all night long. Anyway, Puerto Rican festivals travel all over town.
The Parque de Bombas (the old firehouse) at Plaza las Delicias in the city center is one of the starting points. There will probably be activities in Barrio San Anton near the famous old Ceiba of Ponce. It’s an African Diaspora community, a center of Bomba and Plena culture, that has produced many famous Puerto Rican musicians.
The festival ends with the big party on Carnival Tuesday (Martes de Carnaval) at Placita 65 de Infanteria on Tue, Mar 1.
Ponce Carnival 2021
All 2021 Carnivals are in cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some may go virtual. Normally Ponce Carnival runs for the entire week before Ash Wednesday. Based on last year’s plan, Ponce Carnival would be Sunday, February 14, 2021. However, Puerto Rico is under COVID quarantine, so we cannot gather.
Be good (mask, distance, wash) and hopefully we can gather in 2022.
Ponce Carnival 2020 Schedule
Ponce Carnival is in Ponce, Puerto Rico for just one day this year on Sunday, February 23, 2020.
The party beings with the Dance of the Masks (Baile de las Máscaras) in front of Teatro La Perla at 11am.
At 12 noon the Centennial Municipal Band (Centenaria Banda Municipal) will play a concert at Parque del Quinto Centenario.
The Carnival Parade starts from Centro del Sur Mall from 1pm to 6pm.
The Burial of the Sardine and the Burning of Júa are at 7pm. Pirulo y la Tribu play salsa for dancing into the night.
The festival’s Grand Marshal is Gilberto Limardo, community leader of Playa de Ponce. The Juvenile Carnival Queen is Kayra Figueroa de Jesus. The Child Carnival Queen is Allyson Soley Sánchez Pérez.
Vejigantes are the iconic Puerto Rican carnival character. They are the Puerto Rican version of the devil-hero clowns of Caribbean Carnival.
There are two kinds of vejigantes. In the southern coastal city of Ponce, the outlandish masks are made from paper maché and show a more Spanish influence.
In the northern coastal town of Loiza, the masks are made from coconut husks, and show a more African influence.
The name “Vejigante” is a reference to vejiga bladders, which are sort of balloons, used to threaten celebrants and especially children. In 2019, we haven’t seen any vejiga bladders used in Puerto Rico. We have seen them used in New York City by the Dominican Carnival character Diablo Cojuelo.
Worried about Earthquakes? Don’t Be!
The event usually runs all weekend, but is shortened this year because of the earthquakes in the ocean nearby that peaked over a month ago on January 7, 2020. The news makes it seem like all of Puerto Rico was damaged, but only a few counties near Ponce suffered serious damage.
We can’t speak for Mother Nature, but earthquakes usually come as one big one with many small aftershocks that don’t do any damage, but still scare people. The big one already happened. Don’t be afraid. The best thing we can do is go to Ponce and spend money there enjoying Carnival.
[NOTE: We have spent time in Ponce since the earthquakes. It’s quiet now, very quiet. Many old buildings were damaged, but otherwise Ponce is fine. It’s beautiful. Artists should consider opening studios there.]