The Ponce Carnival is a week-long celebration in the city of Ponce, that takes place the week before Ash Wednesday. The event is similar to Mardi Gras or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The vibrant Ponce Carnival dates back to 1858. Its biggest highlight is the mock funeral and the Burial of the Sardine. There is also an iconic parade of Vejigantes—characters wearing costumes and scary demon-like papier-mâché masks.
The symbols of the Ponce Carnival are Vejigantes, originating in centuries-old Caribbean, African, and Spanish customs and believes. They are named after "vejiga" ("bladder" in Spanish) because the demons are beating evil spirits away with the help of an inflated cow bladder. Beware that vejigantes often go after people on the streets, especially young women and children.
Most of the carnival events occur in the historic downtown of Ponce, at the Plaza Las Delicias and the Casa Alcalde. Various parades and processions take place every day. The first one is the Parade of the Carnival King on Friday afternoon. The carnival closes with a Burial of the Sardine on Fat Tuesday night. There are also street parties everywhere with dancing, singing, and live music concerts. Carnaval de Ponce is Puerto Rico's biggest fiesta so visitors can expect huge crowds, loud music, and lots of drinking.