The San Miguel Carnival in El Salvador. What you need to know!

San Miguel Carnival El Salvador
The San Miguel Festivities.

The San Miguel Carnival in El Salvador takes place every year on the last Saturday in November; it begins at 10 pm and runs until the following morning. During the carnival, the main streets of San Miguel are packed with visitors enjoying the different types of musical events and other attractions.

The San Miguel Carnival is a month-long Celebration. The main carnival transpires on the last Saturday in November, at night. However, the municipality has smaller events throughout the month.

The smaller events are called Carnavalitos or small Carnivals. These Carnavalitos are held in communities all over the municipality; it includes concerts, parades, mechanical games, food festivals, and more. November is a festive month in San Miguel.

San Miguel Carnival
San Miguel Festivities Parade.

What is the San Miguel Carnival?

The carnival of San Miguel is a celebratory event that happens at night on the last Saturday in November. It is the culmination of the month-long celebrations of the city in honor of the virgin of the peace, the patron saint of San Miguel. The carnival celebrations take place in the principal streets of the municipality.

The San Miguel Carnival is one of the most well-known celebrations in El Salvador. On the day of the carnival, from 10 pm until the following morning, the main streets of San Miguel are filled with live music events and people dancing all over.

The municipality sets up different street venues so local and international bands can play for the carnival crowds. Usually, over 30 musical groups and orchestras of different genres play during the night.

Music event in San Miguel
Photo by M. Pereira

The 2022 San Miguel Carnival

The 2022 San Miguel carnival will be on Saturday, November 26th, from 6:00 in the afternoon until dawn. According to City Mayor Will Salgado, this year’s event will have a minimum of 50 musical groups; they will be located by zones and will be classified according to musical types.

Maria del Carmen Villatoro is this year’s carnival queen; she represents the Concepcion neighborhood. Villatoro defeated 15 other competitors to become the 62nd edition carnival queen.

How to Best Enjoy the San Miguel Carnival

The San Miguel Carnival is an all-night event. The best way to enjoy this carnival is to sleep during the day and be at one of the principal city streets by 5 pm. The following might give you an idea of how to spend this Saturday night in San Miguel.

Maria del Carmen Villatoro
Maria del Carmen Villatoro.

1. Experience the Float Parade

The first thing you don’t want to miss is the float parade that starts at around 6 pm; it is the largest parade of the month-long festivities. The march has many colorful floats with hundreds of dancers and musical bands that shine during the celebration.

2. Taste the Local Gastronomy

After experiencing and viewing the long parade, it is time to try the local gastronomy and the local drinks. You can go to the fairgrounds or any area with small food tents. They will not be hard to find! During this night, the city is filled with vendors preparing traditional Salvadoran foods and drinks.

3. Visit the Music Events and Have Fun

After experiencing the parade and having some food and drinks, it is time to get into the spirit of the carnival. From 10 pm until the following morning, music groups will be playing in different parts of the city. Head on to one of the venues for some great live music and dancing.

It will be up to you to decide if you want to stay at one location or visit different areas and see various groups. Keep in mind that during the carnival, the streets are going to be packed. So getting from one street venue to another might be challenging.

4. Have some Atol Chuco in the Morning

To truly experience the San Miguel carnival like a local, you must stay up all night and at dawn go drink Atol Chuco. Atol Chuco is a traditional drink from the eastern part of the country; it is a sweet drink with pink color.

5. Go to the Beach and Relax or Continue the Party

The best way to end the experience of the San Miguel Carnival is to go to the beach and relax or continue the party. Most people in the area will go to Playa El Cuco or Las Flores beach, two of the best beaches in El Salvador.

The Carnival’s History

The history of the San Miguel Carnival is fascinating. According to historical records, the festivities were initially held every May 8th; this is the date the city of San Miguel was founded.

And in 1939, the Municipality Council decided to move the celebration to November. The carnival was moved to honor the Virgin of Peace (Virgen de la Paz), the municipality’s patron saint.

The festivals were initially held in the neighborhoods around the city. As the years passed, the festivities moved to the town’s Casinos (Entertainment Venues); however, only a small group of people had access to the venues.

The majority of the population couldn’t get into the venues. They had to settle for listening to the music of the orchestras on the outskirts of the Casinos.

Then in 1959, Governor Miguel Felix Charlaix noticed the isolation of the majority of people during the celebrations. He decided to make changes and began to make the orchestras do their presentations in the city streets.

Since 1959, the San Miguel Carnival has been held on the San Miguel streets. Over the years, the popularity of the carnival has spread to all of El Salvador and neighboring countries, to the point of recently proclaiming itself as the most important festival in Central America.

Major Religious Events During November

The November festivities in San Miguel are not only about the carnival. The celebrations are also about religion in honor of the Virgin of the pace, patron saint of San Miguel. The following are the most important religious events during this month.

El Festival Mariano

The Mariano Festival takes place on November 20th; it begins around 8 pm and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace.

On the eve of the day dedicated to the patron saint of San Miguel, Catholic faithful crowd the main streets of the city and Guzman Park, in front of the majestic Cathedral of San Miguel.

The participants sing to God and to the Virgin Mary under the invocation of the Queen of Peace. The singing goes on until the early hours of the 21st.

Mass in Honor of the Virgin of Peace

On November 21st, following the Mariano Festival, a mass in honor of the virgin of peace is held at 9 am. This mass is attended by some of the country’s highest officials and local leaders.

Procession of the Virgin of Peace

The procession of the virgin of the peace begins at around 4 pm on November 21st. Like every year, hundreds of people participated in the ancient tradition of accompanying the image of the Virgin Queen of Peace in a procession.

El Salvador Festivities
Colorful Float Parade.

The San Miguel Carnival in El Salvador

Year after year, thousands of local and foreign people come to San Miguel to have fun and experience one of the most fascinating events in the country, the traditional San Miguel Carnival. Families come to this extraordinary and eye-catching event to enjoy the spectacular parade of artistic floats with their respective queens, which runs along San Miguel’s Alameda Roosevelt.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience the San Miguel Carnival, take a chance this year and visit the city of San Miguel in November.