The other day a record amount of snow (five feet plus) was covering my hometown of Boston. At the same time I was walking around the center of Cádiz and experiencing a part of the biggest Carnaval celebration in Spain. Yep, I’m an American living here in Spain and not feeling guilty about leaving my snow roots behind.
Let me start by saying it was a Monday afternoon (a public holiday) and not very inviting weather (cloudy and low 50’s F – not typical south of Spain weather). Given this, I was thinking that maybe we would see a few people out and about, but I was not expecting the crowds of costume-outfitted fiesta-goers filling the streets. Aside from the fact that it’s a week-plus long celebration, what most impressed me were the musical singing acts performed on various “stages” throughout the city. (When I say “stages” I refer to not only actual stages set up for the celebrations, but also store-front steps, military-like trucks in the middle of the streets decorated with various themes, gazebos … you name it). Behind the coordinated comical costumes, makeup and wigs was well-rehearsed, funny and interesting verse. And to top it off, sung quite well with instruments!
Unfortunately, even though I consider myself more or less bilingual, this was one of those moments when everyone else was laughing, while I stood there with a blank face waiting for my husband to fill me in on the jokes later 😦 This really doesn’t happen too much to me anymore here in Spain, but I guess it would be like the equivalent of a foreigner going to an improv comedy show in Boston or trying to understand the fast talk and jokes told by a Boston Duck Tour driver with a heavy Boston accent.
Back to the Carnaval scene… just walking around the city center, on almost every corner you could literally bump into a group singing their song and dance with a crowd of people watching. You could also see groups of friends, young and old, dressed up in costumes and enjoying the festivities. This brings me to the title of this post: I saw various groups of older women dressed up and having a great time with their friends – singing, drinking, dancing, laughing. At one point I saw a group of these women singing a song (of which I only caught some words here and there) to a group of young men walking by, friendly banter I would say. Everyone just seemed to be enjoying and in good spirits.
Somehow I couldn’t picture my family doing something like this, but they really just seemed to be having such a good time. Maybe wearing a costume and wig and singing around the streets with a group of friends should be something to aspire in a few decades…why not?!
Jokes aside, everyone seemed to be having a great time and, despite seeing more than a handful of people (both old and young) walking around with an open liter bottle of beer or wine, no one seemed to be really intoxicated or falling over. Ok, granted it was only early afternoon, but I was still surprised. Now I’ve never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I have the feeling that large amounts of public intoxication could be a bit more frequent there.
This sort of carefree, enjoy life and have fun outside under the sun (or under the clouds in this case), young or old, is definitely one of the things that I find appealing and interesting about the Spanish culture. Of course life isn’t all about fiestas and having a good time, but it sure does take a bit away from the other not-so-fun parts of it!