Though I’d heard much about the fun and excitement of Trinidad Carnival over the years from family and friends, I really had no idea what to expect when I assembled with my fellow Paparazzi masqueraders on Ariapita Avenue last Tuesday morning. I expected surprises, but nothing like the stoic scene that kicked off the day’s revelry…
It was 7am. Soca was already blaring from the DJ trucks that would pleasantly pound our eardrums all day. Some folks fiddled with their costumes. Others scarfed down breakfast. Early onlookers lined the streets. A mirthful sort of nervousness filled the air, at least around me where my old friends rum and Coke were already supplying the requisite liquid courage.
The budding excitement grew even more as we were asked to gather in our sections. The moment was upon us.
THE PARTY WAS ABOUT TO START!
Then, suddenly, complete calm.
No Soca. No fidgeting. No eating, nor wining.
No nothing, really, save for the stirring sounds of the Trinidad & Tobago National Anthem.
Indeed, it may seem a little strange when you consider the utter bacchanalia and debauchery to be unleashed the minute the anthem concludes, but in Trinidad they take a pause before the Carnival chaos to honor country, yielding uncommon scenes like the one above – revelers, all raring to “get on bad” mere moments prior, now standing respectfully at attention in the early-morning light.
To me, the reverence of the moment really speaks to the broader elements of what makes Trinidad Carnival so special. Beyond the skimpy outfits, the overly-suggestive Soca lyrics, the endless booze, fetes and fun, Trinidad Carnival is as rich a cultural event as exists anywhere in the world and a true point of pride for many Trinidadians.
On an even higher level for me, it’s as rewarding a celebration of what it means to be West Indian as anything I have ever experienced.
Like the churches you’ll find next to the rum shops all across the region, our West Indian culture is a kaleidoscope of marvelous contradictions, consistent solely in their inconsistencies, love of fun and national pride. It was a great surprise to see that you can experience it all first-hand in the few quiet moments before Carnival Tuesday kicks off; a moment I’ll never forget.