Yesterday, Tuesday February 28th Our Salty Passports experienced Carnival …
Mas Domink / The Real Mas / Carnival Tuesday / Jump Up Whatever you want to call it we had so much fun. This pre-lent festival is everything you might imagine from a Caribbean party, booming music, spectacular costumes in bold colors & multiple generations of smiling faces. We started out early, driving from our perch overlooking Prince Rupert Bay down to Roseau, parking just outside the parade lines. There were women in the shade getting their makeup done, venders just starting to set up shop. We always like to arrive before its too crowded to get comfortable, and make sure we’ve got an escape route for when we leave. There is nothing worse than getting stuck and having to be the awkward one trying to get a crowd to move so the party pooper can go home. We met up with our friend Ash (Waiti Media ) and restarted our day with some turkish coffee, black. Ash recounted the events from the night before, that we had unfortunately missed out on, but it only got us more excited for the day to come.
The weather outside was moody, drizzling then raining, then full blasting sun, before going dark gloomy again. But with each change in light the apartment above The Garage more people appeared, from a bedroom,through the door, and even through the second story window. Some of our friends hadn’t yet slept, others going on little sleep after days of partying. A feeling we could remember, fondly but without envy.
We helped one of our friends assemble and put on their costume, what was a feat in itself. I changed into something appropriate for the weather, whatever that was going to be and Ash put on her Grenadian flag / cape. Together we descended the old stone stairs into the cobblestone streets for a day we will never forget.
We could see people in partial or complete costume crisscrossing the streets trying to find their band or friends as others posed for pictures while the streets were still mostly empty. Then the music started, and once the music started, the dancing started. It may have been morning but Caribbean Bass doesn’t care what time it is. It seemed to get sunny just in time for the first laps of the young pageant contestants / winners who were dressed in costumes that encapsulated them. The first rounds were the calm before the storm, before women and men bedazzled and feathered would strut and wine down the road to music even louder than before.
I have no idea what time it was when the big bands started to come out, but all of a sudden everything was brighter, louder, and more intense. The bass was enough to restart a heart and it felt good. We danced on the side of the parade route with our friends, waiting for other friends to pass in their band. Drinks were flowing and passed between friends; coconut rum punch, rum & cokes, Kubuli beer, rum & coconut water, and water for when the sun would come out. I wore a neon sweater around my waist and each time it would get dark or rainy the sweater would go on, then back off just a short while later when the sun became too much. If you like a spectacle, dancing, drinking, gatherings of people, caribbean music (from calypso to soca to steel drum) you would love Dominica Carnival.
One of the things that stood out to me most (as a woman) was the diversity of the people, the bodies, the culture as presented by those participating. I loved seeing women of all shapes sizes and colors in outfits that made them feel confident, strong, empowered, beautiful & sexy. The point is they are all feeling MAS. I didn’t see anyone shaming women for their bodies or choice of attire, I saw these women (and men) being celebrated, cheered, and praised and that is a beautiful thing. I know some people think the costumes are scandalous, or look down on those that participate in such festivities, but in my eyes there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing inherently sexual or sinful about dressing in a flashy costume and dancing (no matter how much gyrating, hip twisting, grinding, booty bouncing and wining is involved), the same way there is nothing inherently sexual or sinful about a naked body. Of course I am not religious and I’m a big ol hippie when it comes to the nude body so what matters most to me is the autonomy for anyone to live, dress, dance and do as they please as long as it’s not harming me. Seeing happy, proud people (but especially women) dancing in the streets is always a beautiful sight for me!
The sun began to set, music turned up another notch, and lights flooded the route streets. People getting wild in the streets, in the parade, the lines blurred as the party kicked into full swing. We watched the last few bands sitting atop an ATV on the sidewalk, kicking up our feet for what seemed like the first time all day. We waited for a few favorite bands to pass once more before we decided it was time to attempt the drive home.
We got our car and luckily it took only minimal maneuvering to get us out of town and on the road up North. Once we hit the pitch black stretches of highway we were finally out of the bubble of carnival. Only once on our usually direct route back home were we diverted due to a carnival block party in Mahaut, so we drove up into the community and somehow Rich found his way back to the main road with virtually no light and lots of parked traffic. Back on the road there was only one more blockade apparently abandoned by whomever had erected it. There were 3 metal cage like things in the middle of the road and a metal sign left behind as well. With no lights on the road we could have hit the cages and the sign but luckily avoided both.
Once we returned to our area everything was quiet, just the slight buzz of stressed out students. Enough of their usual haunts were still open while much of the island has had short hours due to carnival. So as we drove through Picard it was like we had a secret to keep. We had just come from a different world, and now we were trying to sneak back into ours without being noticed.
I can say for myself I definitely want to participate in a band one of these years before I get too old and can’t make it around the route more than 3 times without falling asleep on my feet! I can’t speak for Rich in that regard but I know this won’t be our last carnival experience. Thank you Dominica for popping our Carnival cherry with the Carnival Tuesday Jump Up … I can’t wait for next year!