Carnaval and Culture

CarnavalCarnaval is upon us with all it’s might: music blarring, people dancing, costumes being paraded around, churro and palomita vendors out in force, etc. Today we got Max a costume for tomorrow’s fiesta at his school after all, he agreed that it would be okay to be dressed up as a gatito (little cat) – what made it okay to be a kitten but not, say Spiderman, nobody will ever know but it doesn’t matter – as long as he actually puts on that gatito costume tomorrow, which I still very much doubt.

In the afternoon we all went down to the Zocalo to see the kids carnaval parade. It was mainly kindergardeners and pre-schoolers and I have to say no expenses where spared to dress up the little ones in amazing costumes. True to the motto of the Seven New Wonders there were little Maya warriors for Chichen Itza, little Chinese girls and boys (great Wall), little Brazilians in superfancy carnaval in Rio costumes (Christ monument), little Peruvians (Macchu Pichu) in wool caps (mind you it was only about 100 degress Fahrenheit out, so the wool hats came in handy), little Romans (colloseum, Rome), little middle-easterners (Petra, Jordan), and little Indians (Taj Mahal) and a few Egyptians (the pyramid of Gizeh, as the last remaining of the old wonders is an honorary member of the new ones as well). Plus some that didn’t quite fit into any of those categories but were extra fancy like this little boy:

No time and expense was spared for the kids’ costumes

They were made-up and dressed up and did their little song and dance to loud music and the frantic applause of all the mamas, papas, abuelas/os, hermanas/os, tias/os and the extended families as well as the few strangers like us. In the process of photographing the kids I found out another secret about photography: put a big impressive looking lense on your camera and an determined and /or aloof look on your face and everybody will be impressed and nobody will even ask what you are doing there running around in the middle of the carnaval parade. Not even the police will glance at you twice. To make things even more believable I put my press pass from the New York Institute of Photography on my camera strap and people must have mistaken me for a pro (yipieh!) I hope that keeps working!

We love the people here

We have now been here for almost 2 weeks and a few things have struck me. Let me share: people are really mellow and friendly. Compared to American standards (and most European standards as well) they live very modest lives: the houses are small, not always in the best of conditions (to put it very mildly), many cars make even run down American models look spiffy, TV set are tiny, stuff is bought in tiny (hole in the wall and I mean it, not the 900 squarefoot “hole in the wall” known in the US) tiendas or on somewhat smelly markets but people seem genuinely happy and enjoying themselves. I have yet to witness any act of aggression, have yet to see a drunken person (in fact, I have hardly seen people drink alcohol at all despite the many fiestas), have yet to see a person glaring at me when Max bumps into them (which he does frequently). I have yet to meet an unfriendly or obnoxious person trying to push stuff I don’t want on me (they are persistent but very nice and friendly), have yet to met a beggar who is aggressive or demanding. It all feels very save and secure. I can’t guarantee that there are no pickpockets but so far we haven’t seen, experienced or heard of any.

The pace is different. There are forever bunches of people hanging around the plaza or the governments building or the university in white shirts that you assume work there or somewhere close by and it is really not very clear on first, second or third glance what they are doing, other than amicably chatting with other people in white shirts, shaking hands, slapping backs and occassionally stopping for tacos or salbutes somewhere.

Everything is done in a crowd. It seems unthinkable that one person controls the entrance to a building or puts up seats for the parade or scrapes the dirt of a building or serves food: there are always at least two, mostly many more. We must have seen like a dozen people buzzing around a really small area the other day putting up a bleacher that between Max and myself we could have probably erected in 20 minutes flat. But where would be the fun in that?

Everything tastes of limes: chips, peanuts, tacos, soup, meat, seafood, everything. I love lime so its a good thing at least for me.

We met a German guy the other day who doubted the wisdom of staying in one place for 4 weeks (boooooring!!) but I have to say it is a very different experience from the frantic running/driving/flying around one normally does. It’s funny how quickly we settled into our rhythm here, walking down the block to drop off the laundry, having lunch at the stalls at Santiago Park, listening to Mexican music wherever we go, smiling at people instead of glaring when we bump into them on the small sidewalks, walking almost everywhere instead of driving, eating from plates I would desinfect at home, sharing your kitchen with mice and other critters (I am still working on getting used to that). It’s actually exactly what I had hoped for.

For those of you who like pics, here are some of the little ones at the carnaval parade:

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