Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carnival Tuesday

Although I’m certain any Priest would denounce the idea, one of the points of Carnival is to do something you’ll regret the next morning, leaving you in a properly penitent spirit for the beginning of Lent. The picture to the left should explain what I regretted Wednesday morning. While improper application of sunscreen may not be one of the sins most commonly associated with Carnival, it is much more in keeping with my Mormon values than excessive drinking and lascivious sex and I do thoroughly regret it.

I spent the day on Tuesday with Cornelia, a friend from church, and her family. She came by and picked me up mid-morning and then the two of us and Cornelia’s two daughters were invited to swim at her neighbors home. It was a beautiful sunny morning with temperatures in the low 80 F and swimming in the private salt water pool was most enjoyable. Then we joined Cornelia’s extended family for the afternoon of eating traditional Trini festival foods and watching the mas on TV.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you what its like to be in the middle of all the reveling in Port of Spain, that will have to wait until next year when Rich is here. I can however tell you a bit about what goes on and I’ve included pictures of some of the elaborate costumes. The Carnival Mas is organized into bands. The heads of each band start planning themes and costume designs typically 6 months or more in advance of Carnival. Each band has a king and queen who wear costumes that are so elaborate they are better described as human born parade floats than costumes. These costumes are often over 20 feet tall and equally as wide. Many are designed to be very light so that they can be carried by a person. Others have wheels that support much of the weight. One of the more elaborate king costumes this year which I did actually get to see in person was called “Iguana of the Night”. There is a picture of it in the slide show.

It’s an enormous mechanical iguana wearing a sombrero. The iguana bends up and down at the hips as its wearer maneuvers the costume around. Very impressive. The bright pink costume you see in the slide show is from the youth competition (yes she is a teenager). In the youth competition, the competitors have to carry the full weight of the costume so there is a lot of ingenuity that goes into designing these enormous things to be light enough that they can be easily carried by the young people.

Following the king and queen will be a truck carrying either a steel band or loud speakers blaring Soca music and hundreds to thousands of costumed revelers. Pretty much anyone can join a band but it is quite expensive. Costumes run in the hundreds of dollars and you have to get the costume designed and produced by your band. The band directors are licensed by the government and responsible not only for the theme and costume design but also to keep their band more or less orderly. I say more or less because while crime and vandalism are strongly discouraged, lewd behavior is pretty much expected. The bands of revelers dance and wine along the carnival route from morning until after sunset. People who are planning to play mas often start training for the event in the fall and this isn’t just so that they will look good in their skimpy costumes, dancing for 8 hours straight takes some stamina.

So that’s it for this year’s Carnival celebration, well except for the after Carnival shows. I’ll write a bit about them soon. Next year when Rich is here perhaps we can give you a first hand account of the Bacchanal.

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