Contributed by A&J
WALKING ON THE PAVEMENT: A (CARIBANA) 2011 TORONTO CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL REVIEW
As members of the LehWeGo family living here in Toronto, home to North America’s biggest Caribbean carnival, we were asked to attend the parade and provide a review. Although this blog is “from a man’s perspective”, this review will be “from a married couple with a baby’s perspective”, so bear that in mind!
Another point to bear in mind when reading this review: we were not participants in this year’s parade, we were simply observers, and observers there with a 6-month-old baby at that. So we definitely did not delve into the heart of the parade. In contrast, for Trinidad Carnival, we were full and active participants, which gave us a very different perspective.
OK, let’s get right into it. We thought we would break the parade down into several key factors that must be reviewed.
1. Costumes – There were definitely some beautiful and colourful costumes on hand at the parade! To see some of them, check Toronto-lime and Islandmix on facebook. Thank them for the pics in this review. Now, for those of you who have been to Trinidad, one difference you might notice has to do more with what you don’t see than what you do. We noticed that Toronto female costumes tend to be more conservative than Trinidad. The bikini and thong bottoms so commonplace in T&T are replaced by the more ubiquitous boy short in Toronto. Not too many wire cage barely-there bras or body paint in place of bras happening up here (unfortunately) [says the husband member of this duo]! Also, those women referred to in another post, the sweatproof divas, wearing stiletto boots in Trinidad don’t seem to exist here, as comfortable runners and ballet flats tend to be more the order of the day. Finally, not to say that Toronto women don’t care as much about their appearance, but we noticed that the Trinidad Carnival revellers take the hair and makeup to another level.
2. Crowd – Now bear in mind that in Toronto, Carnival is an event that “belongs” to just one of many ethnic groups in the city, whereas in Trinidad, it’s truly a national thing. That makes for a really interesting crowd in Toronto. It tends to consist of: Caribbean immigrants and descendants of Caribbean immigrants who are there to be submerged in their culture, Americans who are up looking for a great party atmosphere, curious onlookers from all other ethnic groups in the city, and former curious onlookers from other ethnic groups in the city who have fallen in love with the festival in years past. It’s a pleasure to see, but also means that there’s not the same level of full crowd participation you might see in Trinidad. For example, many onlookers may never have heard of soca before, much less the road march tune that the nearest big truck is playing.
3. Vibes on the Road – OK, the name of this review comes into play here. Although the parade formerly known as Caribana definitely has a very nice vibe and brought back great memories of Trinidad for us, that sense of euphoria to be found in Trinidad really i
sn’t there. As you can see in the picture below, there’s a lot of walking that happens in this parade, whereas in Trinidad, it’s all about chipping and wining, all the time. Not to say that’s not be had here, but the energy level is definitely less. We think part of that has to do with the fact that Torontonians are a little too concerned with looking cool. Also, see our comments about the crowd above.
4. Crime – Unfortunately, this year’s carnival, and several in years past, has been mired by violence. Not long after the parade ended, gunshots were fired and a young costumer was shot, and the gunman killed by police. As a result, media coverage about the event has focussed on this negative action of 1 among, literally, 1 million. In years past, Caribana has had a bad reputation due to the crime; this senseless killing will certainly cause that to happen again. From what we hear, there is also violence associated with Trinidad’s Carnival, but it’s not talked about much or focussed on (we didn’t see or hear of any while we were there).
In conclusion, if you’re a socaphile who can’t afford to go to Trinidad and Toronto would be a cheaper trip for you, Caribbean Carnival is certainly a great option. Even if you have been to Trinidad Carnival many times and just want to see what other carnivals are like, this one is definitely worth the visit. Toronto itself is also a great city, and there are lots of both Caribana-related and non-Caribana-related things to do in and around this time of year. But…at the end of the day, there’s only one Trinidad Carnival, and being at Toronto Caribbean Carnival just reminded us of how much we want to go back!
see more great photos here!! http://photogallery.thestar.com/1032780
Thanks for the contribution A&J, looking forward to hearing more from you.