Sunday, February 3, 2008


It's Carnival time again... These four days before the start of the Christian Lent are celebrated the world over. From Rio to New Orleans, from Nice to Venice, from Las Tablas, a small town in Panama to Willemstad in Curaçao, people are having the time of their lives. This secular, some say pagan, celebration is not to be missed.

Since I can remember, Carnival has been part of this time of the year in my life. When I was growing up, we used to visit my grandmother in Las Tablas on our school vacation. Celebrations started about a week before with rehearsals of the new songs. Everyone would show up, the music would start and so would the fun!!! For the youngsters, this was the best part since we were allowed to participate. During the celebrations, we were allowed to stay up later than usual, but not late enough to see everything! The fireworks were the best and still are. This small town spends outrageous amounts of money in the most fabulous displays. Even thirty, forty years ago fireworks experts would come from far away places...Italy, for example.

The floats were amazing and so well designed and constructed. You couldn't tell they were produced locally. They could rival anything presented anywhere in the world, I'm not kidding! A couple of years ago, there was a Chinese theme float with a huge fire-breathing dragon! All the revelry comes to an end on Ash Wednesday.

In Curaçao, the party starts weeks before with the Tumba Festival...yes, they have a contest to select the Carnival theme song! The whole island participates in one way or another: you attend the festival, you follow the developments on television or you actually compose a song. Then there is the jump ups, literally groups of people jumping up to the music for weeks before the actual celebration.....rehearsals for the party to come. Let's not forget the year of preparation for the Grand Marcha, that takes place on the Sunday! Floats, dancing in the streets, music everywhere..... people even wish each other Happy Carnival!! Then King Momo is burned on the Tuesday night.....Mardi Gras....... and the party comes to an end.........until next year.

So the fact that here in Miami hardly anyone notices this celebration, can be a bit frustrating, what to do?

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