The Carnaval celebrations in Ajijic, Mexico, last for six days and feature some of the town’s most colorful characters, the masked zayacas.

Nearby Chapala celebrates Carnaval for nearly two entire weeks, but as the events there are organized by the local government, it ends up being used more as a tourist attraction for tourists from Guadalajara. Chapala’s Carnaval often attracts famous, national-level bands who play nightly concerts and sometimes drop the mayor’s name in between songs during performances.

In Ajijic, Carnaval is still organized by the townspeople, for the enjoyment of the townspeople, plus any visitor who wants to get “powdered” with flour, be they from Guadalajara or another country.

“Years ago, Chapala decided to stop organizing its own fiesta and participate only as spectators and detractors of its fiesta. We can’t let this happen in Ajijic,” writes Domingo Márquez Flores in a Facebook post which has been shared 110 times. Flores is the publisher of the local weekly newspaper, El Semanario de la Laguna.

“The great thing about Carnaval in Ajijic is not its majestic floats or technology, but the atmosphere of the locals in conjunction with the tradition of throwing flour by the sayacas.”

geometrical icon
Zayacas throwing confetti in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.
Men dressed as “zayacas” throw confetti during the 2017 Carnaval parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.
Zayacas in Ajijic during the town's Carnaval-day parade.
The zayacas are a central part of Ajijic’s Carnaval events, which start over two weeks before Carnaval. Their exact origin is unknown, but they have been a popular, formal part of the town’s Carnaval celebrations since at least the 1960s.
Parade-goers throw flour during Carnaval in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.
Parade-goers throw flour during Carnaval, one of the unique ways that the holiday is celebrated during six days in the town of Ajijic, Mexico.
A colorful float with people dressed as banda musicians during the Carnaval-day parade.
People pretend to be a group of banda musicians on one of the two dozen or so colorful floats that dominate the main day of Carnaval celebrations in Ajijic.
Boy with mask on float during Canaval parade in Ajijic.
A boy on a float during the Carnaval parade in Ajijic.
Carnaval in Mexico
One of the masked zayacas, who play the central role in the five days of pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic.
Zayacas looking for people to throw flour on.
Two zayacas look for their next victim to flour during the Carnaval day parade in Ajijic.
A vaquero offers a shot of tequila to the passing crowd during the Carnaval parade in Ajijic.
Gerardo López Pimienta offers a shot of tequila to the crowd along the parade route, which crosses through town before ending at the town’s bullring. Pimienta, a large-breed dog trainer who lives in Guadalajara, has been coming to Ajijic for years to ride in the town’s many parades, which often feature the local cowboys.
Town members in the bullring in Ajijic after a pre-Carnaval parade.
Town members gather in the shade at the bullring after one of the pre-Carnaval parades in Ajijic. Cowboys play the other leading role in the Carnaval celebrations in Ajijic. The Association of Charros of Ajijic sponsors the many morning parades, as well as the long afternoons and free comidas which follow on the town’s lakeside malecón.
Carnaval in Mexico
This bull stands in a bullpen as a cowboy gets ready to ride during the pre-Carnaval events in Ajijic. The parades which take place before the actual day of Carnaval end up at the bullring, where the zayacas chase the kids for another 15 minutes before a few rounds of riding bulls.
Kids sitting on the inner wall of the bullring as a bull passes by.
Boys and young men sit with one leg inside the inner wall of the bullring during one of the rodeo activities which take place at the end of the Carnaval parades. The idea is to not retreat the leg or hop off the wall as the loose bull passes by after it’s been left out of its pen. It’s an opportunity to show how brave and macho you are to your friends and the rest of the town watching from the stands above.
A cowboy jumps a wall due to a charging bull during the fiestas taurinas in Ajijic, Jalisco.
A cowboy just manages to clear the wall as a very large bull charges by during the fiestas taurinas of Carnaval in Ajijic.
Regino Flores exists the bullring during the fiestas taurinas during Carnaval in Ajijic.
Regino Flores, a charismatic personality who’s well-known around town, exits the bullring while wearing a large sombrero.
A cowboy and a cowgirl during one of the Carnaval parades.
A cowgirl and a cowboy during a Carnaval parade in Ajijic.
Charro riding in the Carnaval parade in Ajijic.
A charro rides in the Carnaval parade in Ajijic.
Boys in the bullring in front of an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico.
Boys sit on the wall of the bullring in front of an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the bullring in Ajijic.
Banda Colegiala de Alonso Estrada during Carnaval in Mexico.
Banda Colegiala de Alonso Estrada was one of the many musical groups who were a part of the 2017 Carnaval-day parade in Ajijic.
Regino Rojas during Carnaval in Ajijic.
Regino Rojas yells, “¡Viva México, cabrones!” during the pre-Carnaval activities in Ajijic, Jalisco.
Jorge Eduardo "Churro" Beltrán Aceves
Jorge Eduardo “Churro” Beltrán Aceves dressed as a Mexican wrestler on the day of Carnaval in Ajijic. Churro, acting the part of a kind of jester, was an official part of the cast of characters in the Carnaval events in Ajijic and Chapala, Jalisco.