In March of last year I moved to the island of Cozumel. It’s a pretty island with a relatively small town on the western shore, lots of jungle growth in the middle, and all surrounded by beautiful beaches where I imagined I’d spend many a tranquil day just enjoying my retirement. But, since it is also a popular cruise ship destination, for those days I was restless I knew there would be plenty of activities. However, I had no idea just how much there would be to do here. Whether one lives to dive, dance, work, play, just relax, or volunteer, the choices are many. And, for me, a writer with the desire to talk about life as an expat, there has been so much to chronicle that I’m afraid that I’ve saturated the market with my tales of daily activities. For that reason I’d made the decision to give my readers a chance to catch their breath while I, too, took a break. But, I just couldn’t help myself, folks are gearing up for “Carnaval” and tonight I was given a backstage pass. So, I hope you’ll bear with me while I share just one more photo-blog during the preliminary festivities.
It started by my walking down Melgar, the main street that runs alongside the ocean. I wanted to take some pictures of the creative statuary that has just been put up for “Carnaval,” which is Cozumel’s version of Mardis Gras. Since it would be hard to explain the colors and themes of the artwork, I thought I’d just take some photos instead. I’ve included a few examples here so you can see what I mean. There are several dozen, at least, and I just kept walking along and stopping in front of each to get a shot. All along the way taxi drivers said hello and the locals that were just strolling along smiled at my efforts. But, then I noticed that groups of people were heading south and I’ve learned to follow along when I see that happening. They led me about six blocks to the Palacio Municipal Park where the evening’s activities were already in full swing.
The park was beyond crowded and I came across the same problem I’d had last week. There was just no room. The stadium seats were packed, there were kids sitting on shoulders everywhere, folks were squished together, and I couldn’t see a thing. So, I repeated last week’s efforts and went around to the back of the stage. I climbed the cement steps up to the gate and started to try and zoom in to get a few shots. Then, to my surprise, one of the staff members came over, opened the gate and waved me in with a smile. I wasn’t sure why, there were a lot of people roaming about with way more impressive cameras than mine. But, I do believe he was one of the guards from the show last Sunday and I think he recognized me. Whatever the reason, I didn’t hesitate for a second.
Now, the shots you’ll see here aren’t the standard photographs the professionals will get in the weeks ahead. And do look for those because, let me tell you, these folks take these festivities very seriously and their costumes reflect their efforts. And, this might be the time to mention that I’d thought I’d taken photos that reflected the colors of Cozumel. But, I hadn’t even come close. Everywhere I looked there was an explosion of bright and shiny hues while families, staff members and the participants themselves were busily preparing for their time on stage. I kid you not when I say that the energy was almost overwhelming. One group would be rehearsing, another would be posing, while yet another would just be coming back from their performance and receiving back slaps and yells of encouragement and support.
I happened to glance up at the stairs that led to the stage and saw a man in red with a headdress that defied gravity. I watched as he made the sign of the cross and bent his head slightly in prayer. I waited until he was finished, which shows why I’m not a photojournalist, and grabbed a pic. Then I looked another direction and caught the eye of a pretty young woman, also in red, who struck a pose so that I could take her picture too. I focused, clicked and then showed her the picture on the back of my digital. She gave me a big smile and off she went with, I’m assuming, all her family members in tow.
Then there was the girl that was, again I’m assuming, getting limbered up for her dance performance. Next I saw a group of girls dressed in what seemed to be harem costumes. It was all so vivid that I just didn’t care that none of them were in a pose. I was having too much fun. And, I have to admit, I was still feeling giddy about my ability to mingle with everyone. This was not an opportunity I wanted to waste.
I turned around and saw a group of young men in costumes just pacing and socializing. They didn’t appear to be dressed to be in the same performance, but obviously knew each other well. A lot of nervousness was apparent, but they seemed happy to share their emotions and there was a mixture of laughter and reflection. Mentally preparing themselves for their big moment is my guess. After I took their picture I turned and grabbed one of a group of girls who were doing, basically, the same thing. Talking, laughing, checking each others’ makeup, and generally psyching themselves up to go in front of the crowd.
This all took about an hour, or so, and I was getting close to the end of my evening. And, frankly, I was getting tired. But, as I was heading back to the gate I noticed a young woman standing by herself. I asked if I could take her picture and, as always seems to be the case, she obliged. Then there was a couple who were already posing for someone else. I moved forward and was lucky enough to get a shot of them too. But, that was to be the last one of the night. My camera was showing the battery signal that told me I had two choices. Either find a quiet place and refill, or go home. I opted for the second choice. It had already been a great night and it was time to head back and write this little snippet. I walked home with a smile yet again, glad to have been given the privilege to have felt a part of the festivities, for a little while anyway. Salud!