The largest carnival celebration on the island of Puerto Rico is the festival in the large southern city of Ponce. Last night, Tuesday, was the last day of the festivities and Ponce has a very unique tradition to close carnival, one that is very symbolic but seems a bit lost in history. We attended these closing ceremonies, better known as "the burial of the sardine". During the celebration they have a giant parade with dozens of marching bands.
Mischievous demons in ruffled costumes and paper mâché masks dance around and hit unsuspecting women on the butt with inflates cow stomachs that look like balloons.
The king momo, symbol of the joy of carnival arrives on a float to sit upon his throne in the town plaza on the stage decorated with the most glitter I have ever seen in my life.
At the end of the parade is a hurse and a group of mourners, child beauty queens and drag queens alike following a coffin. When the funeral arrives at the stage a body stuffed with hay is hung on a noose and set on fire.
The director of the funeral explaines that this burning body symbolizes the purification for all citizens of the sins committed during the past week of carnival celebration. Next, the coffin is opened and reveals an enormous plaster sardine. Everyone wails, sings a song, and makes jokes about the smell. The sardine represents the end of carnival. It was a strange gathering, like halloween, but nothing like it.