Since moving to the island of Cozumel I’ve been waiting for today, the first official day of Carnaval, 2013. Now, I’d like to point out that there have already been a lot of activities. For example, young men and women have been vying for the coveted roles of King and Queen for weeks now. And, in true Cozumel fashion, the folks here don’t settle for just one of each. It seems as if there are almost as many categories as there are participants. That being said, let me assure you that the music has been loud, the costumes spectacular, the dancers enthusiastic, and the spectators appreciative. But, before the major events and the colorful parades begin, the folks down here have set aside some activities specifically for the kids. And, since I’m a sucker for details, I thought I’d take a walk in the park to see what they had in mind.
The rides were set up in the Palacio Municipal park just south of downtown. I was early enough to be able to capture some shots as they waited for their customers. Something about empty rides seems a bit eerie to me, almost spooky. In fact, when photographing the giant Sponge Bob Square Pants slide (did I get that right?) I couldn’t help but notice that it almost looked as if it was ready to swallow little kids whole. Can you tell I usually write fiction? Still, it was big, bright, and colorful and the kids probably wouldn’t be concerned. But, I was just glad that mine are all grown up and still in the states.
Once I got past that area I started to notice some things that would definitely not be found in the U.S. For example, I wondered how many carnivals up north would feature, as prizes, giant stuffed cigarettes complete with brand names. It’s the little things like this that make me glad I live in Mexico. There’s still a sense of fun without fear of litigation. After grabbing a shot of those for my more skeptical friends, I turned and saw a set of bumper cars. They were also patiently waiting for the kids and I had a moment where I wished I was one. Bumper cars have always been a personal favorite. In fact, if I’d been with some other folks I would have squeezed in and taken one for a spin.
In between the rides were the games of chance. One could go to the track and bet on a horse, or toss a ring on a bottle and win a doll that looked exactly like a dozen others. But, it was all in good fun and I was sure that they would have plenty of players once the real party began. It was only 7:30 by this time and, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the customs down here, the kids will stay up way later than one might expect.
Still, even though it was quite early, a few folks had started to arrive and I was, once again, given permission to take their pictures. Something that continues to surprise me is how friendly folks down here can be, especially when a stranger asks to take a photograph. I can honestly say that no-one has yet said, “no.” Yet another reason to love this island. I spotted a family that had a little girl working quite hard on coloring a picture. While she focused intently, she was being watched over by her completely supportive family members. Of course I asked, and, without hesitation, her mom agreed and they simply went back to doing what they were doing. It turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the night. Personally, I find it reassuring how strong the family structure still is here in Mexico.
Then I walked over to a food stand where a mom was tickling her baby. She’d laid him on the counter next to the bananas and was busily entertaining the little guy. I pointed to my camera, she nodded and I got the shot. Unfortunately, she’d backed away assuming that I only wanted to photograph her child, but that’s okay. He’s a very cute baby. Then I noticed that a couple of kids were playing with some glass balls at a game table. As is often the case, they just smiled when I pointed to my camera and went back to what they were doing as if they’d forgotten I was there. That works for me, it makes for better photos anyway. Afterwards, I was going to thank them, but they were too engrossed so I just kept going.
That was when I spotted a kiosk for masks and other necessities for the upcoming events. Since I’d already been spooked a bit by Sponge Bob I had to take a close-up to keep the theme going. Now, and this is just my opinion, it looked to me as if some of the masks would work well in a horror movie (think Michael Myers, a Captain Kirk mask, and “Halloween”). Now, I can only guess as to what event they’d be worn. But, since this will be my first Carnaval, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
By then I’d walked around most of the park and I was getting hungry. A food stand had some great looking pizza slices and my decision was made easy. I sat down on a bench to eat and just watched as the place began to fill with folks. Just as I was eating the last bite, however, I saw a woman riding the merry-go-round and knew that would be my last shot. I grabbed my camera, turned it on with my, admittedly, greasy fingers, and caught her just as she decided to lean back while gripping the pole. Perfect. I waited until she hopped off and I went over to ask her permission. Gratefully she agreed and I packed my camera away to head home. On the way it struck me that I’d only taken one photo of someone riding the kiddie rides, and it wasn’t a kid. And, I also realized that it was the first day of Carnaval and I hadn’t taken a single photo of anyone in a costume. But, that’s the way it often is down here, surprising. Still, it was time to go home, write this little piece, and get some sleep. There are a lot more events coming in the days ahead. Salud!
p.s. for a glimpse of what’s to come, take a peek at my blogs: “My first taste of Carnaval,” or “Carnaval and a backstage pass.” Folks down here work all year preparing for this event and it shows!