*title taken from "Veteran" by Preedy
Trinidad Carnival 2016
A lot can change in 4 years. That's how long it has been since I've been to Trinidad for Carnival. I had been to Carnivals before, but in my summary of my 2012 experience, I wrote "The city was alive and busy. Food vendors sold pies, doubles, and box dinners until morning hours. People hung around Woodford and Independence Squares liming all night. Oh my! And the women paraded through the streets in tights, shorts, and fishnets, ignoring the hissing of the men mesmerized by thighs and behinds exposed. It really was like a movie and sound hustlers with their speaker-carts were available any time of day to sell you the soundtrack." (Read more here.)
However, that same excitement was missing this year. I landed one week prior to Carnival, but there was no buzz, no cacophony of music in town, and no visible evidence that it was Carnival season. What could cause this lack of enthusiasm among Trinidadians?
My initial thought was the short season and the recession had taken its toll on the revelry. It is typical in an economic downturn for people to forego unnecessary expenses and I suppose feting would certainly qualify. I asked a socaholic Trini friend of mine which fetes he was going to and he said that he didn't want to spend $100 USD for just one party. I understood that, especially since what you got for your money varied greatly. For instance, $100 USD got you a ticket to UV Vibe. The drinks-inclusive ticket included unlimited top-shelf drinks in a branded mug, a cup of (really good) corn soup, as well as live performances by Preedy, Fadda Fox, Teddyson John, Lyrikal and Kerry D Drummer.
$100 was also the price of VIP ticket to Machel Monday, Machel Montano's annual soca fete, featuring over 20 artists and international deejays and a wicked stage show. Yet, even his event was not as well attended as it had been in 2012.
Low ticket sales seemed to be a theme and may have caused WASA fete, Fire fete, and Destra Garcia's QOB fete to be canceled.
Trinidadians were not only absent from the fetes, but even from the streets. I walked from Queens Park to Independence Square and was surprised to see locals humbly going about their lives as though it were a typical Friday and not Fantastic Friday. A first timer that I asked about her experience said she saw "no evidence of Carnival on the streets." Of course, I was not expecting moko jumbles on Charlotte Street or masqueraders strolling through the promenade. However, I did expect excitement. I did expect people running away from work to attend a fete or lime at a pan yard on a school night. Even on Carnival Tuesday, our driver remarked that she was surprised to be able to drive up Jerningham Avenue without seeing the roadblocks at 8am.
Was it just me? Had I built up Carnival in my head to unrealistic proportions? Did I really think that people who were experiencing financial strain due to high-priced food and clothing would be willing to also support high-priced fetes? What happened to the Trinidad Carnival that I remember?