THE big event over here in Portugal at this time of year is the annual street carnival.
One translation of ‘carnival’ says the word is from ‘carne vale’, or ‘farewell to meat’, marking the abstinence of Lent.
The tradition of Carnival is predominantly in Roman Catholic countries and the Portuguese version is closely allied to the Brazilian festivals because the two countries are historically linked.
This is since Pedro Alvares Cabral first popped ashore in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century, followed by a host of tourists and sightseers, conveniently dressed for carnival – that is, wearing helmets and armour and carrying swords and shields! Our event was altogether more social.
On the Tuesday I motored into town at about 2.30pm, passing a number of decked-out trucks on their way in and shedding balloons and trimmings every which way. Finding a parking spot was difficult because a number of the streets were blocked off for the procession. The main body of the parade was gathering adjacent to the central square for a 3pm departure.
Prior to this we were kept entertained by a street band complete with scantily dressed, rhythmically swaying Samba girls ... don’t your eyes hurt when you forget to blink for 30 minutes!
At 3pm the carnival parade moved off, headed by said dancers and their Latin band and followed by any number of floats and marching, dressed-up participants.
I didn’t get the exact number of floats but there must have been a couple of dozen and just about every association from schools and dance classes through bars and restaurants to garden centres and garages had taken the time and made the effort to join in.
There were Flintstones and florists, acrobats and fireaters (probably too much of the Portuguese piri-piri sauce on their bifana at lunchtime), young and old alike just having a real fun time.
One impressive contest was the contrasting styles of music, some live, some electronic, which echoed between the buildings on the narrow streets. This emanated from just about every float, band and troop and from the piped music the Camara generously threw into the audio melting pot from their speakers around the square.
After serious consideration I think the Drumming Display Team just about beat all the opposition into submission ... and my eardrums too.
All in all it was a really great fun afternoon. The showers we’d been having all week held off, although I did get wet on the inside, courtesy of one of the local bars. There was a stage set up around the far side of the square and a musical extravaganza with Pau de Arara ran from about 4.30pm to finish the whole thing off. I tried for a translation on the name and the phrase book gave me ‘Torture upside-down/ from the North East’ ... obviously something to do with Newcastle United losing at home. The show featured a samba band and dancers and provided a fitting finale to the event.
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