“Mexico is always unexpected” is how Husband describes living here. You can get used to living here, when I hear drummers I know that sometimes it’s a parade or sometimes it’s a bunch of guys in the back of a pick up truck. You can tell by the beat, I no longer run out if I suspect that it’s the pick up truck band. Not because I am jaded but because I know that they will be down the street before I get out the door. We still rush to provide an audience when a soprano chanting the Hail Mary loudly, the vibrato in her overly amplified voice caused by a primitive looking megaphone strapped to the top of an ancient primer gray station wagon fills the air. I can tell apart the noises that proclaim a real parade from the cacophony of strident trumpet and drum beat of the Chiapan troupe, who we’ve learned to tip so they will play in front of someone else’s door.
No neighborhood parade tops a Carnaval parade. Living near the end of the parade route we’re often treated to impromptu symphonies of the Merida extemporaneous ensemble of horn and claxon , as impatient drivers protest having to wait in backed up traffic after being rerouted. Even those roaring rivers of noise are dwarfed by the output of the average Carnaval entry.
Normally, if I attend Carnaval, I either join the rest of the plebian rabble pressing against the barriers, occasionally I have been known to spring for an actual seat, either on the bleachers or a rickety metal folding chair. I heard that the seats were up to $40 mxn each, which is probably twice as much as I’ve ever paid. This year, I was invited to sit at the one of the tables at La Parrilla. BK’s husband was ill and they had reserved seats with friends. It was a whole different Carnaval parade experience for me.
The performers would come to the edge of the barricade and strike poses for our eager cameras. Many of the spectators came decked with bright mardi gras bead necklaces which they would bestow upon participants receiving in return whatever booty was being thrown from the camiones alegóricos ( doesn’t the Spanish sounds so much more classy than the English word floats?).
This year along with the usual bubble gum, crackers and giant drink cups I was handed or thrown among other things, a paper top hat, a package of golden blow up wands emblazoned with the Sol logo, a still warm Burger King hamburger, a still cold package of hot dogs,and a headband with red cow ears and horns (from a laughing cow). I tasted the burger, it wasn’t up to Whopper quality and gave away most of my other swag to kids on my path home. I did keep a liter size cup and a refillable water bottle.