Other than brief glimpses on television or social media, I’d never had any particular interest in carnival. Blame my religious upbringing, but I don’t recall ever being determined enough to venture down to Castries on what has become the carnival holidays to take in the festivities.
Yet, there I was front and center on carnival Monday becoming familiar with the colourful cultural revelry. After hearing it enough times, even the “Dennery Segment” started to grow on me. Closer to the carnival culmination however, it wasn’t the only genre people were looking forward to. I noticed our local soca and calypso music, no matter how derogatory, playing more and more on every street corner while their lyrics simultaneously became Instagram hashtags.
Being in Castries however, was far from what I had imagined. I had come ready to witness a steady flow of carnival traffic, with revelers dancing through the streets one after the next, in bands where there was barely room enough to breathe. What I found was a parade that was delayed, for the usual reasons of Looshan time I suppose, which meant that spectators were left sweating buckets and buying drinks from nearby vendors, and straining their ears for approaching trucks.
Eventually I took a drive down to the starting point. Along the main road, occasional splashes of feathers and glitter surrounding big, blaring, deejay equipped trucks were all I saw. Finally, a glimpse of the revelers themselves in a plethora of body types and races, all at varying levels of drunkenness, some not at all. All were performing the Caribbean’s ever-popular dance move – whining. Tourists and locals alike were uniformed in the bands of their choice. Glitter covered bottoms were in abundance and every once in awhile I saw someone doing a “matay” in isolation, but facing the traffic. Of course as time passed the parade became more saturated as late revelers joined in on the road and the bands met up, (which was somewhat closer to my expectations). Saint Lucia’s creative personalities shone through the altered and original costumes and the actions taken when revelers began using roundabouts as a bacchanal stage.
From where I was standing, Carnival appeared a unified celebration, a wild melting pot of nationalities and not to mention, alcohol, sweat, music and dance moves. Everyone was screaming, shouting, jumping and waving together. No one seemed to care who was around, or who was watching (or recording). Observers from the sidelines sometimes couldn’t help but jump into the street-party, only to have security haul them out. I watched as they hopped right back in when the coast was clear. I guess there’s no way to tame a soca-motivated Lucian! For the first time in a long time, women (for this occasion of the costumed variety) didn’t seem bothered by the remarks coming from the roadsides no matter how rude or funny. Revelers made their way to different carnival bands to get a taste of each. I would never have noticed that each band was vying to win various competitions had it not been announced in the end!
Sweet Saint Lucian carnival is over until next year, and like clock work, the band launches will begin in a few months. But, wouldn’t it really be something if we could all get along like on Monday and Tuesday, even when soca and alcohol aren’t involved?