Memories of Miami Carnival

Photo by Jason Handelsman

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Watch a slideshow from the Carnival festivities.

The vibe was different from the second we stepped foot on the upstairs platform at the Dadeland South Metrorail station. It was exceptionally crowded for a Sunday. Groups of excited bacchanalists were bedecked with bandanas patterned like island flags, or just clad head-to-toe in their country’s national colors. Amidst smatterings of Spanish, the predominant voices were of Caribbean migrants ready to party.

“Which stop it is?” one large dude clad in Trinidadian red, black, and white asked aloud. “Government Center,” another equally large Trini responded. At the downtown stop, the metros emptied. The leaky, wobbly people mover became overcrowded quickly. At the 11th street stop, the passengers gasped at the sight of Bicentennial Park. Thick crowds of Caribbean people surged towards the venue, and the sight from overhead was indeed one to behold – revelers sorted by colored costumes dotted the park, food booths stretched as far as the eye could see, and in the middle of it all, the Carnival King, an enormous, serpentine creation in shades of gold and green, sat surrounded by costumed masqueraders.

The scene on the ground was frenetic and fun. Emormous trucks blasted soca music while scantily clad women shook their posteriors joyfully. Potbellied men covered in glitter danced around the park, drinks firmly in hand. Miami mas band Generation X had an enormous turnout of “pretty mas” participants, but the opposite end of the Carnival spectrum – the proudly filthy members of the “Dutty” band, had an even bigger and wilder crowd of mud-streaked masqueraders dancing behind their trucks. Moko jumbies danced among them on tall stilts. The Miami Pan Symphony entertained the crowd with their “Pirates of the Caribbean” themed parade, but Trinidadian imports Invaders Steel Orchestra impressed the crowd with flawless calypso covers of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” alongside popular Caribbean ditties.

By late afternoon, the park’s grassy areas were disgusting. An overload of food vendors plus a lack of easily available garbage cans (or workers to constantly empty them) meant that inebriated party people simply abandoned their trash wherever they wanted. One was likely to step off the concrete walkway and plop their cute Jamaican-flag Pumas into a full plate of curry goat and rice. The street was strewn with abandoned angel wings and bandanna flags beaten into the ground. The detritus of mas would require an enormous clean-up.

Trash disposal issues aside, this year’s Miami Carnival was bigger and better organized than it has been in years past. The revelers revealed that in gushing reactions on the Metrorail ride back. “I wanna go back!” a teenage passenger squealed. “I feel like I’m coming back home after visiting the islands,” an American patron said. For many of the visitors, it felt exactly opposite – like returning to Miami after a brief, exciting trip home. -- Patrice Yursik

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