Carnaval de Loulé, Oldest Carnival in Portugal
The best travel experiences are often those you stumble into. Last week in the Algarve we stumbled into the Loulé Carnival, one of the oldest carnivals in Portugal. But while the tradition may be old, the 2013 theme was current, and something of an education in Portuguese politics, satire and the ability to party in the face of austerity. So what does an Algarve Carnival look like? Well let me show you….
The great farce
The 2013 Loulé Carnival theme was “Entroikados – the Great Farce” providing plenty of scope for comment on current Portugese economic, political and social predicaments. Not that you’d know it from the cheerful welcoming clown at the Carnival entrance.
An austerity carnival
Apparently the budget for this year’s carnival was cut by €50,000 as part of local belt tightening, but it didn’t seem to have dampened the party spirit or the quality of floats, puppets, performers or costumes in the traditional parade. Maybe the carnival cuts were creative inspiration for the satirists who designed many of the floats poking fun at the country’s economic situation. The squeeze on the ‘man on the street’ was a common theme, literally portrayed by some as the rich squeezing every last euro out of the ordinary Joe.
Some floats were even more overtly political, pointing fingers at home and beyond, like on this float ’The Puppet of Europe’ depicting the Portugese Finance Minister (who looks uncannily like Mr Bean) acting as pupeteer as he pulls the strings of the everyday man, surrounded by cowboys while overlooked by Angela Merkel. You don’t need to understand Portuguese to get the message.
But it wasn’t all class struggle and political statements. Some took other topical themes, like this cops and robbers scene which turns out to be parodying a long running case involving the imprisonment of a former president of a Portuguese football club on corruption charges. Who said sport wasn’t political?
More than just politics..
Fortunately there were also some less political and easier to understand floats, featuring samba schools, gigantones (giant puppets), cabeçudos (papier mache figures with great big heads) and of course people with colourful feathered headdresses.
But it’s people that make carnival
Of course carnival is not about floats, it’s about people. People make carnival. The people who drive the floats…
And the people who watch the floats… from the balconies along the procession route…..
And from the cafes along the street….
And people make music
You can’t have a carnival without music… whether it’s a local brass band….
Or a group of local Elvis impersonators on percussion
Although there’s no guarantee it will be to everyone’s taste…
And where there’s music there’s dancing
And of course where there is music there is dancing. Of course there has to be samba..
But of course it doesn’t HAVE to be samba….
And it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, you can join in…
Carnival for kids
It’s not just the adults who enjoy the dressing up, most of the kids do too, whether as part of a float…..
Or just to watch…
There’s a lot of clowning around at this carnival and not just with the political satire. There are clowns amongst the onlookers….
Clowns in the parade…
And clowns in need of break…
To see and hear a little more, check out this little clip from YouTube.