Posted by: ktzefr | February 19, 2010


Carnaval in Rio is on my “to do someday” list.  But for now I’ll have to be satisfied with the carnivals of my youth in Kentucky and the more recent Carnival celebration in Mexico.

Carnival with crazy costumes and parades and all-night parties didn’t happen in Appalachia.  We watched glimpses of Mardi Gras on television, but that was as good as it got.  Carnival to us meant that the traveling amusement park was coming to town.  It was always in early August, and every night for a whole week our town was lit up — or, at least, the American Legion field was lit up.  Lights and colors, ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls, cotton candy and candy apples…the sweet scent of hay they scattered everywhere and the sight of cars parked in long rows in the grassy field, more cars than I imagined could have been found at any other time in town.

My dad won carnival glass by pitching quarters into bowls of various shapes and sizes.  Year after year my mom slipped the new pieces in the cabinet and brought them out on holidays to fill with fruit and salads and cold boiled custard.

At the carnival we rode all the rides and walked round and round looking for people we knew.  It was “see and be seen” time in town and oftentimes the older folks ran into friends they hadn’t seen since the last carnival.  We were cautioned, however, to stay away from the “freak shows.”  Carnival people were bad eggs, fakes, and possibly even felons.  So we didn’t go in the fortune teller’s tent even though it looked exotic, and we didn’t check out the five-legged goat because it was probably not a real leg and we all knew a girl in town who had two thumbs on one hand, so it was no big deal.  And we didn’t dare peek at the man lying in a pit with vipers, deciding ahead of time that the snakes had probably had all their venom removed somehow or they were non-poisonous (and no one could tell the difference as we didn’t have viper snakes in Kentucky), or, perhaps, they had managed to put a thin glass partition between the man and the snakes so they weren’t really crawling all over him anyway.  We didn’t know; we didn’t care.  By seventh grade we were mainly there to look for boys.

Carnival/Carnaval is celebrated lots of places in Latin America from big city, elaborate, pull-out-all-the stops fiestas to small town parades with a local flair.  On the Riviera Maya, the Caribbean coast from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, the celebrations lie somewhere in between.   Here are some pics from last year’s celebration in Playa del Carmen.  What fun!

Bright colors took over right from the start…  (click on images to enlarge)

Hotel Lunata, Playa del Carmen

The parade that is supposed to start at 6 o’clock may begin by 6:30 or 7:00 or whenever.  Mexican time is… special.  Everybody’s waiting for some magical moment.

I waited on the hotel stoop with nary a drum beat in the distance, so I headed to the internet cafe, got a spot, took a seat, and clicked on my email.  That’s when I heard the drums!

Carnival ~ Playa del Carmen

Are they Mayan warriors or birds?

Look at that smile!

Men and women in black…

The abuelas and ninas parade night had all the grandmas dressed in purple and dancing in the street…

Abuelas in purple...

Ninas in pink...

The wrestler...

…and the team.



...and my favorite musician.

and my favorite musician!

my favorite cricket maker...

Have a great mardi gras, cranival/carnaval, or book-reading-in-front-of-the-fire kind of weekend!


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