Thanks to the Krewe of Mayahuel, Mexican culture is finally palpable in a parade that has always been about freedom of expression, although its history has battled with white supremacy. Krewe is a word that refers to an association that stages an event at carnival time and Mayahuel is the name for the Aztec goddess of agave (the source of tequila).
The man behind the creation of the Krewe of Mayahuel was born in Mexico City. Roberto Carrillo, 52, who has lived in New Orleans for 13 years, noticed that there was little Mexican representation in the culture of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. So he gathered about two dozen members to join his krewe, a mix of Latinos and non-Latinos, white collar workers and blue collar workers, immigrants and natives, to parade around in their most creative Mexican attire. It was time to change this void at Mardi Gras.
He told the Washington Post: “Parading is the soul of New Orleans, you show the world what you think.” Aside from having a good time and showing off Mexico´s rich artistic culture, Carrillo’s true desire was to counter negative stereotypes of Mexicans in the city and elsewhere. “We don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we don’t drink margaritas, we don’t eat burritos,” he added. “All of that is mis-culture.”
Since it’s natural for Latinos to lend one another a hand, Amigos de los Amigos, a krewe founded by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans about a decade ago, were the ones who initially invited Mayahuel to participate. “For me, to see an addition to the Mexicanizing of the parade is something I’ve always wanted to see,” Antonio Garza, the founder of Amigos de los Amigos told NPR.
Frida Kahlo inspired the Krewe de Mayahuel’s celebration in 2019. What better way to show off Mexico´s rich tradition of art than by giving them a parade of Fridas? By the likes of the giddy reactions from the parade crowds at last year’s celebration, it seemed everyone, from teenagers to senior citizens, loves Frida. Her name could be heard being chanted as the Krewe de Mayahuel rolled by.
The beauty of their celebration of Mexican culture was how Frida´s image found a way to unite people from all backgrounds. And while Mayahuel’s political stance in 2019 was artistically subtle, it remained firm with its clear message for those who caught it. One could spot an Aztec canoe with the words Viva Mexico on it. A Frida pushing a cart with the words Migration is natural. Or monarch butterfly pins, made popular by immigrant rights activists, worn by smiling Mayahuel krewe members over their hearts.
One of the 2019 parade’s most talked about costumes was Eduardo Courtade and his wife’s tribute to Frida. Instead of him donning a pair overalls and she a unibrow, this Mexican-born couple decided to recreate Frida´s infamous streetcar accident that nearly took the artist´s life at a young age. To recreate the accident that impaled a teenage Frida, they used cardboard for the streetcar and a plastic blow up doll attached to the cardboard oozing red paint from a cardboard pole coming out of Frida´s torso.
Needless to say, we’re eagerly anticipating the krewe’s theme for this year’s parade.