by Barbara Eller
You have never been to a carnival until you have been to a Mahahual Carnival. Last year was the first time I actually took part in one and what a blast it was!
Last winter Patrick and I were staying with some friends north of Mahahual. And one Sunday afternoon, as was our custom, we were sitting on a log next to the water, sipping our margaritas and discussing the just-announced carnival. Anyone could enter a float, so we were brainstorming what kind of float we would like to enter. And you know how things go from one idea to another, and each one gets a little crazier. Well, we decided it would be fun to go as pirates and, since I worked at a dive shop, Bucaneros del Caribe (it sounded like something to do with pirates), I should ask if we could borrow some pirate "stuff."
The next day I went in and talked to Arturo and Jorge about our idea. I wish you could have seen Arturo's eyes! "Yes, yes, and you can use the Perla Negra and we will put sails on it and get some cannons, and we have swords, and wigs, and hats, and lots of other things!!!!" I suddenly had the feeling I had created a monster. Needless to say, Arturo took over, first sending Patrick and me into Chetumal to buy 140 meters of rope for rigging. The small shop, about the size of my living room, was so full of rope, buckets, and who knows what, that there was only room for Patrick, so I waited outside. He came out laughing, "They only sell rope by weight, not length." We bought eight kilos and hoped it would be enough.
The boat was put on a trailer and parked in front of Arturo's home. The parade was scheduled for Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, so early Friday morning we showed up ready to decorate. We put blue fabric around to look like water, two large masts were put up, cannons were put on board, a treasure chest set up to hold the candy we would be tossing out, and a few other pirate things. Then all the costumes were passed out and we went home to get dressed.
All the floats were lined up on a side street just off the main road into Mahahual. As we started pulling the boat we realized that one of the masts would not clear the telephone lines running across the roads. We quickly found long poles to push the lines over the mast at each crossing. Everyone got their float lined up and, only an hour late, the parade started. The Sol's Brewery led with their queen and her court followed by cars decorated as turtles and sharks; a trailer held dancing guys dressed as women in sequin dresses; the school had students on a float; the dance school had children in dance costumes, as well as the Bible study group. We drove through town, then parked, and the entire town partied on the beach.
The next night we all got lined up as before, and this time it was a little tricky trying to see the phone lines in the dark. On Saturday night there were even more people in the parade. There were also motorcycles, a marching band, and men on stilts, each in a different colored costume that lit up. People lined all along the Malecón, taking pictures, singing, dancing, and running alongside of the floats. We staged sword fights, shot off cannons and threw candy.
At the end, as we passed in front of a large stage, each float was introduced. Different groups performed onstage and schoolchildren sang and danced. Food and drink stands were set up around the parking lot. I think every man, woman and child who lived in the area were there that night.
The best part was we asked Arturo if we could put the boat in the water on Sunday and sail it up and down in town. So once more we put on our pirate outfits and set sail. People came running out of the hotels to take pictures and wave at us. Some of them even started wading in the water to get closer. It was a perfect ending to a great carnival weekend.
Until next time ...