Carnaval and Painted Ladies
07 February 2016 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Beth /cooler - low 20's
It is Carnaval time here in Isla Mujeres, and as in most things Mexico, tracking down what is happening where is an inexact science.
We walked down to El Milagro this afternoon to meet David and Elizabeth, and the four of us headed for El Centro in search of the parade. We already knew that the start time of 3 pm was totally irrelevant, but we were hoping to find the floats gathering somewhere by 4. It may be that there was an actual parade somewhere, sometime, but we discovered the brightly costumed dancers and strutters a few at a time, with a stop for gelato along the way. (Tasty, but not like Tutti Fruitti in Placencia!)
Dance troupes are a major part of the festivities, and while a queen is crowned and late night parties on the square go on for each of the 4 nights, those dance routines that take place all over the island are what most of us see. As far as I have been able to discern, there are around 10 competing groups this year - made up of young men and women, each with distinct costumes, choreographed dances and music, and they perform each of the 4 days of Carnaval.
This is how it happens. We are strolling along the sidewalk, or standing among the waiting groups of locals and tourists. We hear very loud dance music coming closer, and soon we spot a pickup truck with huge speakers mounted on the back. Behind it is another truck loaded with brightly costumed and painted up dancers. They pile out of the truck, clear traffic out of the way, and dance their hearts out! After two or three numbers, one of the group passes a hat among the crowd - just like at our busker festivals in Canada - we drop in some coins, they pile back into the truck and go off to the next locale.
It was a little different on Sunday afternoon, because in addition to the "truck troupes" of mixed gender, we saw groups of girls and women dance/walking along the main street, some with choreographed routines, and some just "parading". I have added some pictures in the gallery - album titled Isla Mujeres.
Don't you just love the ladies in the picture above? I am sure those women have been doing this for years, probably starting as young girls, progressing perhaps to the more polished teenage dancers, and then strutting their stuff as they reached their "mature ages" - and some of them, very "mature"! Interestingly, I didn't spot any older men. Body shape appears to be totally unimportant, and indeed, most grown Mexican women are more round than slim.
These women strutted along - I just can't think of any better word - they wiggled their feathered bottoms, puffed out their substantial bosoms, and posed for pictures. They were so comfortable with themselves and I just loved them!
As for the truck troupes - usually there were a dozen or so teenagers - again of all body shapes and sizes, with boundless energy, smiles and costumes made of feathers and painted cardboard. We watched several in El Centro, another group in the lobby of El Milagro Marina, and yet another one the next day on the street outside Oscar's Pizza restaurant.
Jim and I haven't seen Carnaval in other places so I can't really compare, but I think this is a small and local variety. It isn't a show for the tourists - it's Isla Mujeres life.
It also happened to be Superbowl Sunday, so as we walked back toward El Paraiso Marina, we moved from Carnaval atmosphere to American Football frenzy. Most of the bars around town had special deals for beer and food and there was no lack of fans, but after the fun of tossing pesos into a hat for local dancers and applauding their efforts and costumes, the highly commercial football thing didn't quite compare for me.
As I walked home to Madcap at the end of the day, I was still smiling over those senoras and their feathers. Go dancers, Go!