Burl Ives got it wrong; the most wonderful time of the year, in much of the world, is upon us – Carnival. For four, five, six, even seven days leading up to Ash Wednesday, revelers in the Catholic world drop inhibitions and taboos in a frenzied, culturally-mixed-and-matched attempt to “get it all in” before having to give it all up for the forty days until Easter, and not just in Rio. The craziness starts this weekend in places as disparate as India, the Canary Islands, and Sydney. Here’s a brief video tour of just a few of the celebrations in the Western Hemisphere:
New Orleans – Yes folks, Mardi Gras is Carnival, and every year since Hurricane Katrina leveled the city, New Orleans has been slowly but showly rebuilding America’s biggest fête. King Rex, the Mardi Gras Indians, and the Zulus lead the other krewes in celebration.
Santo Domingo – With less flash and glitter than at some of the world’s other Carnival parties, this street bash is no less wild. Afro-Dominican rhythms beaten on drums or blasted over gigantic speakers keep the backsides bouncing with Caribbean tradition and swagger.
Barranquilla – Costumed bands of merrymakers engaging in Colombia’s traditional dances – the cumbia, gaita, puya, and mapalé – comprise the city’s biggest claim to fame besides being Shakira’s hometown. There’s also lots of corn starch throwing and a bit of coonery that has always set uneasily with me.
Trinidad – Despite strong British influence, Trinidad just couldn’t shake off all the French and Spanish elements from its history, no matter how centrifugal the ‘wine.’ The traditional cast of costumed characters, influenced by cultures from the Congo to the Caribbean, has been usurped these days by folks palancin’ down the street in feathers.
São Paulo – No, it ain’t Rio de Janeiro, but the Sambadrome competition in South America’s largest city is big enough, bad enough, and crazy enough to warrant two nights of back-to-back TV coverage, the amount of time Rio gets. During Carnival, the big paulistano samba schools battle it out on Friday and Saturday. Rio runs the show on Sunday and Monday.
Ready to get that ticket for next year?