From painted creatures, to musicians on stilted rollerblades, to dancers from diverse backgrounds dressed in extravagant costumes, Carnaval swept over Madrid with liveliness, ridiculousness, and some comfortable confusion. With roots unclear, Spanish Carnaval is most logically explained as a release preceding the restricting the weeks of Lent. Though other European cities celebrate on a much larger scale, Madrid still participated whole-heartedly in the fantastic festivities.
Without time to experience the entire weekend’s events, my roommate and I chose to watch the Gran Pasacalles to get a taste of the craziness of Carnaval. We expected to observe a sort of haywire Halloween, which was confirmed within minutes of the start of the procession; however, we did not know of the other existing aspects of the festival, like homeland pride and cultural integration.
After various, unidentifiably costumed groups passed by, there was a shift in the organization of (or, more accurately, an addition of organization to) the spectacle. Gone were the wacky walkers in homemade costumes, replaced instead with choreographed dance groups in authentic cultural wear. Country flags flew, separating the performances and identifying the origins of each progressing act. Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, and many other nations were present, but it was the Dominican Republic above all that made itself known, with a massive float, crowds of parade participants, and music that forced my body to sway.
Bizarre, joyful, eccentric, celebratory, curious, infectious- Carnaval was mostly what I expected, but also a lot that I did not. I appreciated the bands of locals in themed, DIY costumes that embraced the festival spirit a step further than the rest of us. I enjoyed the entertaining, physical expressions of all of the groups, often personally experiencing the delight that radiated off of participants’ faces. Most of all, though, I admired the strong showings of diverse, cultural identity present in Spain. I was grateful that these special groups were willing to share their traditions, and felt included to have been able to observe their unique ways, all in the spirit of Carnaval.
Paz, Amor, Madrid