Carnaval Ponceño: Puerto Rico’s National Carnival

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There aren’t any documents that define the official origins of the Carnaval Ponceño, however, there are documents that mention the event in 1858. The Carnaval de Ponce thus was first observed in 1858 and first introduced as a masquerade dance performed by a Spaniard known as Jose de La Guardia. The masquerade was an event throughout the decades; however, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the municipal government decided to add an event to Carnaval. 

In the early 1960s, Carnaval began to incorporate parades that represented civic and cultural institutions and public and private community housing and colleges, schools, banks, industries, and commerce. The Office of Cultural Development of the Municipality of Ponce states “it has been believed the impact from Carnival of the Nice Carnival extended to Barcelona and that the immigrants from Barcelona brought the carnival to Ponce. As time has passed, Poceans have added their twists to the festivities with Afro-Antillean music, which fills the carnival with rhythm, percussion and joy.” 

The month of June 1995 saw the Carnaval of Ponce was transported into New York City where, during the Puerto Rican Day Parade, more than 200 performers, as well as folk musicians from Ponce and Ponce’s Banda Municipal de Ponce and the Carnival’s Queen and Child Queen, paraded down the city’s Fifth Avenue as part of the city’s Puerto Rican Day Celebration. In the weeks leading up to the Parade, Folk artists who were part of Carnaval Ponceño toured the city, instructing children to make the traditional Ponce carnival masks. In 2012 the local newspaper called the Carnaval de Ponce “Puerto Rico’s National Carnival.” 

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