Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Carnaval: Mardi Gras

Princess Mardi Gras right here!

I know, I know, enough Carnaval already! But in my own defense, this was a cultural study that I undertook. What I learned was that the best parades to attend are the first one (Friday) and the Regional night (Monday). There are plenty of people around but they give you a little room to breathe. Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday's parades are much more crowded and the atmosphere (for me) is not as festive. There are too many people and they get really fucked up, making others grumpy and pissing off security. On Tuesday a drunken guy dressed in drag fell off the curb and on to Pablo.

We were able to get seats, but the box seats for the big finale were sold out by January. Or last year, depending on who you talk to. We sat in the street at the intersection of Calles 60 and 53.

This is a watermelon vendor going through a ritual health inspection. Ok, so we ate watermelon on Sunday, not Tuesday, but see how inviting it is? I finally got a good photo.

I learned why I write these blogs. It is all for me! I knew the blog coverage was getting excessive but I had a great time with it. Plus I was determined to follow it through. Even if I bored the shit out of some readers my ultimate hope is that you found something in all this that made you smile.

I was amazed to read in the Diário del Yucatán that 700,000 people attended Tuesday's parade. There are one million people living in Mérida and its immediate surroundings, so let's say 100,000 were working, e.g., emergency personnel. That would leave 200,000 people. I am convinced most of them were participating IN the parade!

We left the house at 8:30am to try to procure seats. We hadn't been able to arrange seating in advance, so early arrival was our only hope. We opted for the Santa Lucia Park area again and luckily for us they were still selling single seats at closed intersections....with chairs, without shade. It was hot, sunny, and really hot and sunny.

This is how I got some shade, not to mention almost having my eye poked!

For breakfast at around 10am we bought some kibis and piedras from street vendors. Kibis are Lebanese deep fried bullets made of crushed garbanzo beans. (There is a huge Lebanese population in Mérida.) The kibis remind me a little of hush puppies. The inside is hollow and the vendor fills them with "repollo", chopped cabbage and habanero chiles. Kibis are a bit dry for my taste.

We also tried piedras, or "rocks". They are little balls of masa (the corn dough you make tortillas with) stuffed and deep fried. Some had hamburger and seasonings in them, others had black beans and chicken. These also come with repollo. Those went very well with the beers I had for breakfast when the concessions opened at 11am.

With beer in hand, I bought some fresh roasted peanuts around noon. I swear they were the freshest, crispiest, tastiest peanuts I have ever tasted. They made the warm 2nd beer go down much more smoothly. The parade began at noon on Paseo de Montejo and reached us by 1:20pm. It was over in an hour and a half. The parade finished at San Juan Park around 3:30pm.

The participants were noticeably tired when they reached us, not only from the heat of the day, but from days and days of marching miles and miles. I was tired of watching parades so many days in a row, so I can only imagine how the marchers were. Some of those costumes were heavy and they all looked hot.......except for the scantily clad ladies of course, who didn't have to walk anywhere, as they just stood on the floats tossing loot and looking good. (Or not.)

The ACTUAL last event, the burning of Juan Carnaval until next year, we skipped. That took place on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. All of a sudden I was over Carnaval and ready to go to the beach and eat fish!

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