2012 April 2012 Suzanne A. Marshall

By Suzanne A. Marshall from the April 2012 Edition

Carnaval (carnival in English), is a week- long fiesta that takes place in some Catholic Latin American countries leading up to the period of Lent before the celebration of Easter. As most Catholics interpret, Lent is a period of sacrifice and renewal of faith. This usually involves giving up some sort of pleasure (such as sweets, alcohol or certain foods) as a reminder of the sacrifices that Christ made on behalf of mankind before the crucifixion and resurrection.

Of course many people see this as an occasion to enjoy oneself before the sacrifices begin. And so there is ‘Carnaval’ filled with entertainment, joy, exuberance, food, music, dancing, parties, costumes and a grand parade.

I remember some of our local Mexican friends talking about the Carnaval last year, and asking us if we were going to the big parade. Being guests in their beautiful city and country we are not yet well absorbed into the Spanish customs, language and extended media. So without actively reading and listening to what was going on around us regrettably, we didn’t make it to the parade. But living close to the main Boulevard and much to our surprise, we heard the parade approaching and passing by for about 2 hours. We swore we wouldn’t miss it the following year!!

Hello Carnaval 2012! This time having viewed pamphlets of the weeks’ events and making ourselves much more aware of the celebrations from February 25th to March 4th we headed down to El Centro on our faithful bus route one evening to check out the action. And action there was. Thousands of families and of course big-eyed children caught up in the Carnaval atmosphere. This particular night was the crowning of the Carnaval princesses all ‘decked out’ in the most beautiful dresses and tiaras. This all took place with much fanfare on a big colorful stage complete with a master of ceremonies, loud music and crowd chaos. You couldn’t help but move to the groove and get involved!

Surrounding the staging area we found many wonderful sights. The water fountains were in full action mode and beyond, a mid-way was in full swing with rides for the teeny tots and numerous games of chance. We found it just as much fun to watch as the doting parents did. And of course the food abounded. For me, nothing smells as good as Mexican food cooking on outdoor grills and wafting around in the air. It is nearly impossible to diet in Mexico let me tell you!

Eow it’s Friday night of Carnaval week and we anticipate the big parade. We headed over to the main boulevard to get a good spot as the crowds gathered, music blared from the sidelines and people literally danced to some fun Latin line-dance (including small children who knew the steps too) and the anticipation crackled in the air.

Almost as much fun were the parade vendors. These people in my opinion are pretty gifted and strong as they balance tall poles reaching metres above their heads of candied apples, cotton candy, balloons, face masks and push carts with toys, candies, nuts and assorted pastries. Oh what a party. And the parade had not even begun yet. As the sun set and darkness took over, there was a sea of glowing face masks, hair ornaments and high-flying toss toys that were spinning regularly in the air.

Finally the parade approaches. Music booms from passing floats and troupes of marchers dance to Latin rhythms looking resplendent in colorful, sparkling costumes. The parade we are told, began in the Miramar beach area and followed the main boulevard all of the way to Las Brisas. I’m pretty sure there were a few sore feet and aching muscles from walking, dancing and waving to the cheering crowds. I have never enjoyed a parade so much and I have attended many in my lifetime. I truly believe it’s the enthusiasm and spirit of the crowds as well as the parade itself that made such a difference. You feel so much more a part of it than an observer.

Our only regret would be not being properly prepared for night-time photography. Next year will be an entirely different situation.

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