Trinidad - Carnival time!

On the 3rd of March, Monday, at 4 am, extremely loud music sound tears the silence in Port of Spain. Music! Soka! Thousands of trucks with enormous loudspeakers, higher than a human height start their tour throughout the awakened capital. The Carnival has just begun!!! It is time for madness, freedom and music! The Carnival starts with ‘J’ouvert’ – the parade of people covered with tones of paints, mud, chocolate and anything else you could imagine. Everyone screams, dances, sings and they pour each other with all kinds of paints. The bands go out at the streets long before sunrise. Nobody sleeps - they are ready for the most important event of the year. For Trinidadians there isn’t anything more important than the Carnival! They prepare for it a whole year, right after the closing of the previous. They save each penny for a costume and a place in one of the many bands. To be officially part of a band, you have to pay a lot to get a costume – the cheapest are over 100 American dollars and it is like decorated underwear in which people have to march at the parade. To be part of a band is like a religion for the locals. Some bands are small and are represented by dozens of people, and others are formed by thousands. The bands of J’ouvert don’t wear costumes, but similar T-shirts and shawls and they march across the streets from 4 am till lunch time. Each band has its own lorry, loaded with massive speaker-system, as well as few more trucks – one full of people, who give food and beverages to the crowd, one loaded with chemical toilets, etc. All of them pass in a convoy and they are followed by the crowd. Music is one and the same in all of the different bands’ trucks and they constantly play 3 or 4 music hits the whole day. People dance and enjoy, smear with paint and spend energy which has been accumulated the whole year behind desks, offices and schools. The masquerade, or in shortly ‘mas’ started in the early Monday afternoon, recessed for a while around midnight and continued from Tuesday morning till midnight again. The masquerade is more like a competition between bands and there is a winner at the end. On the Monday parade, bands show different parts of their costumes, and on Tuesday they show off in all their beauty ready for the jury’s appraisal. The costumes are unique, very glorious and beautiful, piled with colourful feathers, beads, sequins, fake precious stones…Some of them have the form of enourmous platforms of wheels, representing different mythical creatures such as dragons, scorpions, princesses and they are pulled by a man through the whole route of the parade, which is about few kilometers long. The two places with official stages are the Savannah Park and the main road close to the railway station. There, in front of the jury, bands try to impress with all kinds of dances with interesting choreography, recreating fairy-tales and legends. The event is supplied with beverages and food, so that the contestants can endure till the end. It seems pretty exhausting, though, especially for the people who pull the platforms or these with the massive costumes with the multiple ornaments on them. I shall not describe the costumes in details; you can see them on the photos after the text. There were Indians, bats, vampires, princesses, gorillas, fairies, suns, devils, toucans, scorpions, dragons and so more others. In my opinion, the most impressive thing at the Carnival is the costumes indeed. And the most shocking are the local dances, which literary means an ugly rubbing of asses. Taking into account that most women who march at the parade are roly-poly, there is a massive shaking of tones of fat, so to speak. Trinidad seems a place with a cult to fat women, because I hardly imagine another country where a roly-poly of 150 kilos would freely march through the most important event of the year. In Europe, they would hide in a safe place, so no one could see and mock at them. Here, they are so proud and bold to show themselves and feel glorious and special. People do not mock at them and obviously local men do not like slim chicks at all, because they flirted with the fat ones all the time. Slim girls stood as punished and no one showed any interest to dance with them, while all roly-poly was surrounded by wooers.
The carnival for our small ‘band’ of sea-navigators started at 4 am, when we all woke up and about 5 we were already on the road from Chaguaramas to Port of Spain. After last night, Kirk, Adina and Kathrin had decided to join us for the hitchhiking, because they had been discussing for hours how they were supposed to reach the Carnival, how all buses and taxis would be full of people and how incredibly difficult the moving about would be. They were quite worried they wouldn’t reach the place on time, so they decided to see how we’d do it. Our calm attitude infected them. After we were on the road, the first car showed up and my friend and I just raised our thumbs. The car stopped. It was a pick-up and the driver was heading Port of Spain, so he took us all – there were exactly five more seats. The eyes of our companions would pop out of their sockets, when they saw how easy it was, after they lost hours in discussing how they were going to travel 20 km at 5 am on this pretty busy road. We reached the capital and we momentarily bumped in one of the many groups, so we stepped out of the car and joined them. The fuss was really great, music was so loud, that when I got closer to the speakers system of the lorry, my heart started to pound and my ears would burst. People were dancing, bumped into each other like monkeys and smearing mud and paint everywhere. Kirk got pretty worried from all the fuss and he stood behind, so they wouldn’t make him dirty. Adina and Kathrin were instantly daubed by someone, my mate found two half-full bottled with splashing paint and he daubed himself (if you don’t look dirty a local comes and smears you right away). I stayed clean surprisingly long when a man came and said ‘how could you come so far with these clean clothes’) and he spread a handful of mud on my face. Our group divided in the beginning - Kirk stayed somewhere behind, we lost Adina and Kathrin who disappeared in the crowd, and we tried not to lose each other, or at least not in the beginning. We were shooting like mad - I was using one of the cameras and my friend the other. We were climbing on the fences of the surrounding houses, so that we could shoot the crowd from above. Right after the first hour, the band we joined had merged with many other bands and the whole procession got really long. We found a pair of wings on the street, obviously someone had lost them, so I took them and they became my carnival suit. At noon, the fuss started to slow down and people went home to prepare for the afternoon masquerade. We went to Savannah Park, where we popped into the tourist info centre and took some leaflets and maps of Trinidad, as well as a schedule for the Carnival. Apparently my friend got tired from all the noise and mess around and he said he wanted to have a rest on the boat, so we separated and I found a strategically situated place to make photos of the passing bands. I waited a while, but no one started to pass by, so I decided to take a walk along the main street to the railway station, where one of the main stages was located, as well as the jury and the bands’ performances.  The show began. The whole afternoon till late evening, I spent in observing and making photos of the passengers with their incredible costumes. There were thousands of people in the crowd; all of the contestants posed for photos, and everyone were happy and excited. As much as I hate soka along with the fact that I was sick of these horrible few songs they were playing all day, the Carnival made me happy and it was worth it to stay all the time and enjoy the costumes. I left when it was already dark and the procession was almost to its end. I was walking about an hour till I got out of town. The streets were full of people, the whole city was celebrating. There were stands for food and beverages almost everywhere. Hitchhiking so late from the city to Chaguaramas was not a piece of cake, so I waited an hour and eventually I arrived by two different cars. Kirk and my friend were sitting at the dinghy dock, waiting for us to show up. Adina and Kathrin were still missing. My friend shared he got at the dock a couple of hours ago, because after we separated he decided he wanted to go back and watch the Carnival, but he couldn’t find me. He stayed somewhere close to me but we didn’t bump to each other anyway. The three of us went back on the boat where we found Adina and Kathrin, who were eating their supper. Someone gave them a lift.
The next day, we left a little bit later for the Carnival and this time we were the four of us, because my friend stayed on the boat to rest. It was the same story again – the first pick-up stopped and took us. Kirk was more than happy that he’d learned something new – if you want to be somewhere, in a quick and problem free manner, you just have to hitchhike. The driver left us at the city centre and Kirk lost in the crowd not too long after that. Adina and Kathrin wanted me to show them my surveillance spot, because the previous day they couldn’t see most of the bands (there is a road-bed, which the contestants use, but some do not walk through its full length just till some key spots where the jury is). We make ourselves comfortable close to the fence of my previous spot and we spent the whole day there. Adina took Teddy this time, so locals had a good fun with us and Teddy received many photos with fancy dressed people and even with a police-officer, who Adina asked to pose with Teddy. This time, all the costumes were gorgeous and we really enjoyed the show. A Belgian called Nick, who started a small talk with me the previous day at the same spot, was here again, so he joined our group. When the procession was over, Adina and Kathrin wanted to drink beer, as well as Nick. So, we started a walk through the streets around the square. After an hour later, we headed towards the boat, the two girls decided to hitchhike with me, and we went to the highway. The first car, which took us right away, gave us a lift to one of the further neighborhoods and the second one took us outside the city. The two youngsters in the second car gave us gifts – a tiara and a necklace from their own costumes. Adina received the tiara and I got the necklace, which was really cool. Earlier, while we were waiting for someone to give us a lift, I found a tiara (a little bit broken) on the street, so I collected it too along with my other treasures from the Carnival which I sent back home. We were on the boat on time and we even had the time to enjoy the photos on the computer. The Carnival was over, but it would always remain in my memories. It was really a unique experience, which I wish to be experienced by all of you! People say that the Trinidad’s Carnival is the second biggest in the world after that in Rio, and not less important. I totally agree and I don’t doubt this is true. The show was spectacular; the contestants prepared themselves a whole year for these couple of days. It is definitely worth it to be seen and experienced!
Here are some of the songs, which were played non-stop during the Carnival and even after its closing they could be heard at least 50 times per day from cars, pubs and houses….
The most horrible song in the world (they are all disastrous, but this is the top song on the chart) – Rolly Polly:

Big people party:

Too real:

Truck on the road: 

If you wish you could watch a video from the Carnival posted by someone; (there are more at;

My photos are here, on the BG blog -

This publication was translated by: Ivelina F.:


No comments:

Post a Comment