Dance in the Streets!

150 150 lovelight

It’s not too much of a stretch of someone who wrote a book entitled “Operation Big Fun” to write a blog about the wild, crazy, and super-funny street party that is Carnaval. It finally wrapped up here in the Canary Islands of Spain, and it ended with a bang of confetti all over my head.

However, I must admit I had been basically hiding from Carnaval for the last month, as I’d instead been working on creative projects and trying to get healthy by moving my body at the gym. I’ve been so focused, in fact, that my friend Tricia repeatedly recommended I have more fun.

The 2024 Carnaval theme was "Carnavales del Mundo." This included an out-of-place American who didn't know she was supposed to wear a costume like Halloween.

But I never felt like I was really missing out. I checked out the schedule of events, and there were no headliner musicians I couldn’t miss. Nor was I particularly interested in buying a ticket to one of the galas. I don’t drink alcohol at all and can’t handle that much crowd energy anymore without a good reason.

I passed the epicenter of the Carnaval grounds many times on my way to my weekly group meditation. It resembled a small fair in the United States with its rides and booths. “El Barco” was the Viking Ship and just as terrifying, I’m sure, given the likelihood of a person who works at the carnival forgetting to check all the screws before starting up the old contraption.

I didn’t attend any Carnaval parties, in part because I was also still exhausted from the long string of fiestas that take place during the entirety of November, December, and January. Of course, Christmas — which is celebrated here on Christmas Eve and Christmas itself — is a big deal for this Catholic nation. New Year’s Eve is a huge party anywhere. Here, the Epiphany on January 6th is an even bigger deal with a parade with the Three Kings. Carnaval started before that and lasted all the way until yesterday.

Although this morning, as I was lifting the kettlebell and enjoying a view of the passersby on the paseo, I saw a couple walking in elaborate costumes. So maybe nothing’s over. You just don’t turn it off. A little research showed me there was a drone show today and a concert by a Marc Anthony tribute band. I missed it.

I actually wasn’t even sure I was going to get out the door to go to the parade yesterday. When you’re in a creative project, if you’re

Unlike in the U.S. Virgin Islands, this Carnaval celebration features drag queens. Even the 10-year-old boy next to me watching the parade was, I think, Marilyn Monroe.

anything like me, you’re drawn inward in a way that’s almost magnetic. As I said, my level of artmaking has been verging on serious. That’s no good!

So, I was reminded about how ridiculous and hilarious everyday life is by just wandering out on the streets yesterday for La Gran Cabalgata. This is the final, massive street parade that ends with yet another all-night celebration. I knew I’d skip out on the all-nighter since I had already scheduled a yoga class this morning. But I do love a good parade.

I was curious to see if this Carnaval parade would be different than the one I enjoyed in St. Thomas and St. John of the U.S. Virgin Islands. There, the adult parade was filled with groups in matching, revealing outfits. There were plenty of sexy men and women, the latter of which highlighted for me how very different beauty standards are for different cultures. The soft, fleshy bodies that were shaking down the streets of Charlotte Amalie weren’t how I’d want my body to ever look, and yet they were beautiful, full stop!

The last parade I attended was in New Orleans two Halloweens ago. That city really knows how to celebrate! The parade was filled with marching bands, dancers, and even guys dressed as dead Elvises riding motorbikes. My bag was filled with all kinds of freebies float riders threw to me. In fact, I befriended the people around me so we could work together to manage our pile of goodies.

Indeed, the Canary Islands do it differently. The first thing I noticed on my way to the parade route was that nearly everyone in attendance was dressed in really fun and creative costumes. Both children and adults wore costumes, and many families created themes in which everyone participated. Some were elaborate, but most were simply fun.

This was a creative and almost free costume -- he put some forethought into where those dark pixels were!

There were lots of Mario Brothers, Carmen Mirandas, Minnie Mouses, M&Ms, pirates, hippies, steampunks, old folks, superheroes, King Tuts, and Barbies. Gym bunnies, soldiers, cats, and more than one La Calavera Catrina in an interesting crossover from the Day of the Dead. Yes, of course that’s also celebrated here along with Halloween.

Marching in between the big floats, I saw Trump waving a big American flag, Fidel Castro chomping a cigar, the Pope in a car with a squad of Secret Service protectors. I also spotted a few male London Buckingham guards (who were wearing miniskirts and stilettos), a few bums who offered to share some uncooked bacon with me, and a guy in a trench coat who, when he flashed the crowd, displayed a pixelated board that thankfully edited out what we didn’t want to see. I also liked the guy who had a mohawk and a ghetto blaster radio who was a punk rocker, as well as the crew of friends who dressed up like a yellow Guagua, which is the local bus.

The parade kicked off with the Reina of Carnaval 2024, a beautiful woman on a very fancy and sparkling float. Next, we were treated to the top three runners up to the crown. Then was the little girl version, the Princesa I guess, before what was very different: Drag queens. There’s a major drag queen show, in which one is crowned the belle of the ball. We got to see this year’s queen as well as the runners up, too.

Then it was float after float. Unlike in New

The Pope had his own security detail, but I noticed they were drinking on the job.

Orleans where they throw out everything from packets of coffee to moon pies to cups to Cracker Jacks, no one three anything except confetti. Only then, it was just one float with bags of the stuff. Instead, the floats were clearly ticketed parties with revelers drinking excessively — and obviously. I watched more than one parade participant kinda sway and do that telltale, slow-motion half-blink. But everyone seemed to be having a blast.

Since there wasn’t much built-in reason to interact with the people on the floats, I found myself enjoying the rest of the community who joined in to walk behind and dance to the pulsing pop music blasting from the speakers of the moving parties. I knew some of these songs — it’s the same remixed crap I have been dancing to at the gym almost daily for the last two months. However, everyone else seemed to not only know the songs but know every word and were willing to sing along unabashedly.

We were all laughing and dancing in the streets, which reminded me of how joyous and fun life can be. I have a group of friends who organize “playshops” instead of workshops, and that inspires me. As I continue to be my best self and focus my energy on completing meaningful projects, I have to remember how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do the good work.

You may have heard that children laugh 300 times a day while adults only laugh 17.  Well, I definitely laughed more than that yesterday

Isn't she the most beautiful Queen of Hearts you've ever seen? Spoiler: That's a dude, an old dude.

— and I didn’t need a drink of alcohol to do it, either, by the way.

Everything started around 4:30 p.m., and the parade was only a few blocks away. I enjoyed about three hours before I decided to return to the comforts of my quiet apartment. After all, what’s more fun than rest?