Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 2010 Martinique - Carnival! Dimanche, Lundi & Mardi Gras Parades

Carnival! There is some dissention about the meaning of the word itself, but most definitions point to some version of "carne levare" -the removal of meat, or "carne vale" - farewell to meat. During Lent, one is meant to say goodbye to 'the flesh' both literally and figuratively... so go go big or go home!

Why celebrate for only one day, when there are infinite opportunities for parades?! Most of the towns in Martinique have individual celebrations throughout Carnivale. The capital city of Fort de France has the largest versions of each, but we enjoyed the festivities in our town of Diamant. (And we were cautioned somewhat against Fort de France being over-the-top, in the same way that you might not consider a New Orleans Mardi Gras entirely family-friendly. Deeply alcohol infused wild rumpussing...!)

The 14th was "Vidé Populaire" - just an all-around costume parade - lots of boas, sparkles, wild wigs and costume of all manner. The 3pm start time is exceedingly broad - island time interpretation translates to approximately 430/5pm. This is widely understood by all except the tourists (us.)

We start to have mardigras-car sitings: apparently near-death vehicles are saved up for Carnival season. They are spray-painted and decorated for the occasion, sometimes with extra generators mounted for sound and/or motion to be able to make the trip. Doors & hatchbacks are removed so that people can freely move about the 'float' as it makes its last maneuvers through a glorious ride to ritualistic burning/abandonment/scrapyard status...!

Monday, the 15th was "Vidé in Pyjama" at 5am -- we did try to find this one, even accounting for the island time variance, but were clearly out of the loop - and/or it is some sort of February Fools' joke (haha - suckas!) It is also 'burlesue wedding' day with parades full of wild- mostly male - cross-dressing. The male cross-dress was a favorite theme throughout - lots of incredibly athletic, muscley babes with boas, huge, colorful afros, heels and sparkles!

Mardi Gras - actually "Fat Tuesday" is the "Vidé Rouge et Noir" - the Red & Black parade. Red devil day - horns & masks. Little children hate this one, and some of them are dressed as angels for contrast. Simple themes, so anyone can play along - participants & attendants alike - many of the schoolfriends & townsfolk show up eventually....

Wednesday - Vidé Noir et Blanc. Black & white attire for the effigy burning of "Vaval" the (evil) King of Carnival. Our parade ended in a bonfire at the beach. With drums. And conch-shell trumpets. Mais bien sur!

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