My Last Carnaval Post in Merida

13 02 2013



My first memory of Carnaval goes back to growing up Irish-Alsatian in Philadelphia and
 Fasnacht Day.

There were and still are some wonderful German bakeries in that part of the world and we called what we ate on Shrove Tuesday “fried doughnuts.” Being pudgy at the time I remember it being about stuffing as much sugar and fried fat in my face as I could seeing that Lent would start the next day. Eating for me was not going to be the unhealthy activity it usually was for the next 6 weeks. Back then in my Catholic world of guilt and pain Mardi Gras was a one-day affair of eating-in-excess to ready myself for the sacrifices to come.


Just as horizons broaden for most of us during adolescence mine widened into watching film of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but my most significant experience in understanding the meaning of Carnaval to the Latin world was had by watching Orfeu Negro. Besides giving me an understanding of Carnaval it introduced me to the music of Jobim/Gilberto/Bonfa.  If you want to relive the memory or watch it for the first time you can watch the complete film on Youtube. BTW an ex-novia from Peru said to me, “No, no Rio!! It’s instant divorce! Everybody cheats in Rio especially at Carnaval.”

But nothing can beat the real thing.  The first real thing for me was Carnaval in Cadiz, Spain 3 years ago. Andalusia and Carnaval are hard to beat and Cadiz’ celebration is considered at the top or near it in Europe.  The traditions of flamenco, gypsy culture and Spanish political satire made for a fun-filled (and at times thought-provoking) week.

I was looking forward to my first Carnaval in Merida. But mi novia was the first force to pull me in the opposite direction. She didn’t want to go. Actually I wasn’t that disappointed since I expected Merida’s celebration to fall short of Cadiz. My girlfriend is Mexicana by birth so I was kinda puzzled by her distaste but I had no problem with skipping the whole deal but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Saturday she showed up and said, “Lo siento, eres neuva aqui y curiosa…vamos.” 3 hours later we’re walking back after being subjected to an endless comparsa of beer company-sponsored floats peopled with tittilating torsos twirling to mindless music. Not the bossa nova of Orfeu Negro. Before you dismiss my reaction as coming from an older out-of-touch-wth-today curmudgeon, I do listen to the music of today’s youth and enjoy some of it. The last day of Carnaval celebration was Tuesday. We – my novia, her daughter and her Mom – went en familia to the beach at Progresso. A beautiful day of sun, sand and surf sprinkled with the same camiones de cerveza, sexy cuerpos, y aburrido musica.


merida carn1

Public drunkenness was not a problem. Kudos to the people. The family spirit of togetherness and love that makes this place special was very evident. The children come first. The level of art (visual and sartorial) displayed in comparsas that I saw was mediocre at best. Eating at Eladio’s in Progresso was infinitely better than fasnachts in Philadelphia. Now if only I could find Virginia Rodrigues to sing Manha de Carnaval. 



1 02 2013
My Best Friend, known by some of you from Muy Complicado at Hennessy’s Open Mic, sent me this.  BTW Open Mic is moving to Bodega 41 on Feb. 19. ‘Come on Down’  as Bob Barker used to say on the Price is Right to Lisa Collins outdoor cabaret .  Cafe Creme will be serving food and drink as well.
Some of you may have seen the above photo already on FB.  It illustrates what I believe and when I’m gone how I’d like to be remembered.
An anthropologist proposed a game to children of an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruits near a tree and told the children that whoever came first would win all fruits.
When he gave the signal for them to run, all children held hands and ran together, then sat together to enjoy the prize.
When asked why they had run the way they had, if only one could win all fruits, they answered, “UBUNTU!” Translation?  How could one of us be happy if everyone else is sad?
UBUNTU in Xhosa culture means “I am because we are.”
There are times when the anti-intellectual part of me rises up.  This was one of those times.  I chuckled to in our so-called advanced civilization where “Das Kapital” is revered as one of the great works of the western mind a bunch of kids playing a game in Africa answered in one word what should silence politicians (in my sphere of interest, American politicians) into critical thinking for at least a few seconds. The realist part of me responded with another chuckle…a moment of silence from a politician? In your dreams, buddy – only when someone dies.

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