What are the traditions and importance of the Yautepec Carnival in Morelos?

Although carnival is a universal celebration, each country or region has given it its own particular stamp. In Mexico, one of the most colorful and peculiar carnivals is the one celebrated in the State of Morelos, particularly in Tlayacapan, Tepoztlán, and Yautepec.

What are the traditions and importance of the Yautepec Carnival in Morelos?
Chinelos at the Yautepec Carnival. Image: Diario de Morelos

The carnival is a universal celebration, however, each country or region has given it its particular stamp. In Mexico, one of the most colorful and peculiar carnivals is the one celebrated in the State of Morelos, particularly in Tlayacapan, Tepoztlán, and Yautepec, with the "brinco del chinelo" (jumping of the "chinelo").

The chinelos are dancers who participate in the carnival grouped in comparsas ("troupes") and dressed in a particular costume, hat, and mask. Chinelo is a word that derives from Nahuatl and means movement of the shoulders and hips, which is characteristic of this carnival dance.

This festival, which originated in Tlayacapan during the Colonial period, arrived in Yautepec around 1880, promoted by the brothers Cesareo and Ángel Montes de Oca, who organized the first comparsa, which they called Capricho ("Caprice, Whim"). During the armed movement at the beginning of the century, the carnival ceased to be celebrated in Yautepec and was returned in 1930 with new energy and the great imagination of the locals who incorporated new elements into the traditional celebration.

Thus, in 1935, the Burial of the Bad Humor is held, a representation that takes place two days before the beginning of the carnival. In the central square -zocalo- a black cardboard feretro ("casket") is placed with the "Mal Humordentro" ("Bad Humor"), also a cardboard doll. For two days it is watched over and the local people hang humorous legends alluding to people of the locality on the coffin.

On Friday, the day the carnival begins, the Mal Humores ("Bad Humors") are carried in a funeral procession by his widows, a group of young men dressed as women in mourning. When they reach the bridge of the Yautepec River, the widows' procession dismantles the coffin and throws it into the river, and then moves to the kiosk located in the zocalo where they listen to the testament left to them by the Mal Humores. Immediately after this act, the band begins to play the sounds of the chinelo and the carnival formally begins.

Carnival Saturday is the day when the chinelos jump to the beat of the music played by the wind bands. Each troupe arrives at the zocalo twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, accompanied by its respective band, which is located behind the dancers. On this day, a jury formed by renowned neighbors, chooses the queen of the carnival, among several young girls who have been nominated for it.

On Sunday morning, the troupes again make their way to the zócalo and return to their respective neighborhoods. In the afternoon, the parade of troupes or comparsas takes place and it is the opportunity for the chinelos to show off their costumes and for the public to appreciate them. A jury, formed by local authorities, awards the best comparsa, the best band, and the best chinelo costume.

Monday is the last day of the carnival and is used by the people of Yautepec to jump to their heart's content, since, when the visitors leave, the crowds are over and it is time to say goodbye to the carnival with jubilation. During all the days that the festival lasts, locals and visitors can enjoy different foods and drinks in the multiple stands that are placed in the zocalo. In Yautepec, the carnival begins after Ash Wednesday, so as not to compete with those of Tepoztlan and Tlayacapan, which are celebrated before.

The suit

The original chinelo costume is still worn in Tlayacapan and Cocoyoc. It is a white blanket tunic with blue stripes below the knee and a ruffle (like a handkerchief) painted on the dancer's back. They use a grille mask with a large beard that ends in a beak and a profusely decorated hat. In Yautepec, until the end of the 1940s, the costumes were made with a fabric called charmess.

Shortly thereafter they began to use velvet, which was introduced by the Tepoztecos and adapted by the Yautepequenses. The costume is a long-sleeved robe adorned with hand-embroidered sequin and chaquira figures. The flounce is also made of velvet adorned with marabúen on the border, with a central figure embroidered with sequins and chaquira ("beads").

The hat has the shape of a truncated pyramid, placed inverted; it is made of woven palm and lined with velvet of the same color as the dress and the flounce. In the lower part, it has a strip of canutillos ("basket weave") in the form of hanging arches, and in the upper part multicolored feathers. Like the turuca and the flounce, the hat is delicately embroidered with beads and sequins. The mask is made of wire cloth and represents the face of a male person with thick eyebrows, a mustache, and a beard that ends in a beak.

The music

The musical accompaniment of the dance is provided by a wind band. The repertoire consists of 36 sones divided into 6 groups. Each group has the same beginning. Each son is a musical phrase that is repeated twice, the first time by the trumpets and the second time by the saxophones and clarinets.

The sones are separated from each other by a trumpet call called despunte ("blunt"). Here it is worth mentioning the work of Mr. Brígido Santamaría, founder and director of the well-known band of Tlayacapan, who made an important compilation of chinelo sones during the first half of the 20th century.

The origin of carnival

Carnival is a festival that takes place in the month of February, during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, a day on which Catholics imitate a period of fasting that consists mainly of abstaining from eating meat.

The historical antecedent of the carnival is the Roman saturnalias, festivities in honor of the god Saturn, which also took place in the month of February and lasted seven days, during which the courts and public schools were closed, the Senate did not meet, any type of struggle was suspended and war could not be declared.

It was, above all, a festival for the slaves and, for this reason, they were allowed to have fun at the expense of the defects of their slaves without being punished; moreover, they could use the best clothes of those and eat in their company at the banquets that were offered in honor of the god. Thanks to this festivity, pleasure, and joy reigned everywhere, and even gambling was tolerated. On many occasions, the prevailing hustle and bustle gave rise to all kinds of excesses and orgies.

The word carnival has its origin in the Italian carnevale, coming, in turn, from the ancient Italian carnelevare, and this one from the medieval Latin carnelevamen, formed from the noun caro, carnis: "meat" and the verb levare: "to raise", "to remove". This medieval Latin term literally means: "meats that have to be removed"; this word is used more widely, and it can be applied to the different days on which the Catholics must abstain from eating meat.

Two other words closely related to the carnival, but in the sense of a popular festival, are the following:

Mascara ("Mask"), probably coming from the Arabic masjara: "jester", "clown" and, from the makeup used by these characters, "mask". It is interesting to note that the Latin word used to refer to a mask and, in particular to the actors' mask, is a persona; from this usage, by extension, it came to designate any human being.

And, finally, the word Bullicio ("Bubble"), which is a derivation of the Late Latin noun bullitior "bubbling", coming, in turn, from the Latin verb bullire: "to bubble", "to boil", from which the verb ebullir came into Spanish. The origin of bullicio probably refers to the exaggerated movement and noise produced by a crowd crowded in a place, which is comparable to the movement and noise produced by a liquid when boiling.


The Yautepec Carnival is one of the most significant events of its kind in the region. No one should miss the activities it includes, such as the chinelos dance. Carnival is celebrated every year and is one of the most famous carnivals in Morelos. It is a party where the inhabitants of the region offer the best hospitality and attention to all visitors to the carnival.

The municipality of Yautepec is one of the 36 municipalities that make up the state of Morelos, Mexico. It is part of the Tierra Grande region and has a population of about 102,690 inhabitants. It is located in the northern part of the state of Morelos. According to the interpretation of its glyph, Yautepec means "on the hill of yauhtli", from yauhtli=yellow wild plant currently known as "pericón"; and tepetl= hill.