In the UK this time of year usually revolves around Valentine’s Day and pancakes. But this weekend Valentine’s day barely even registered with me as in Andalucia, it is CARNAVAL!!!
I have a couple of friends currently experiencing Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. But who needs Rio when only 20 minutes away from Seville is the small town of La Rinconada!?
This is the town where I’m working at the moment, and over the past couple of weeks our workmates have been talking to us about carnaval. They told us carnaval is very important, and that we had to come and we had to dress up. When we started talking about costumes, they were very clear: this isn’t any ‘carnival’ style dress up like you might get at Notting Hill carnival. Our boss shook her head when we talked about bralets and headdresses. “You have to wear real costumes”, she said. “People spend months preparing!”
So we begrudgingly agreed to borrow some “Mexican” outfits from her. Our other wonderful colleague invited us to her house to go with all her friends. She told us we could NOT wear our costumes on the way to Rinconada. “You have to get changed HERE!” she said. It seemed like carnaval had a lot of rules. We bundled over on Saturday afternoon, costumes and a bottle of negrita in our backpacks, and the festivities began! The warning that carnaval was important really did not prepare me for what were getting ourselves into. After a boozy lunch at our friend’s house, we got changed and painted our faces. Our friends all went as bees, and had somehow commandeered a full-size shopping trolley that they filled with bottle of coca cola, cups and a polystyrene box filled with ice and rum. So much rum. I thought this was just the storage device in their home but it turned out that you had to take the trolley to carnaval with you.
We left the house, trolley in tow, and walked up the road just in time to see the start of the procession. Leading the way was the carnaval queen, who was pulled along by a tractor and half-heartedly throwing confetti into the crowd. Then behind here were hundreds of people. Everybody came in groups, all dressed as the same thing… chickens, aliens, clowns, dogs, farmers, bollywood dancers… the variety was impressive. I’d tried to reflect Frida Kahlo in my Mexican outfit, but it wasn’t very successful and I just looked like I was dressed as any old Mexican. I was a bit concerned people might think I was suggesting all Mexican women had monobrows, and be offended. It soon became clear I needn’t have worried as being offensive didn’t seem to be a concern. We witnessed quite a surprising amount of people who’d decided to actually black up for the occasion as they dressed up as “African tribes”…
We joined the parade and marched through the streets, looking at people’s costumes and drinking from our trolley. We passed our friend’s house on the way – and her mother’s! – so stopped off to use the toilet and have a break. Then, as the sun had set, we reached the plaza where there was a giant stage playing live bands and bars and candyfloss carts. We didn’t need the bars though, as we wheeled the trolley into the crowd and danced around it! It was so fun!
We wanted to go back to Seville to sleep, so we unfortunately had to take the last bus home at about 10.30. By this point we’d already been partying for like seven hours so it wasn’t too upsetting, but nevertheless it would have been fun to stay longer. There isn’t really a carnaval in Seville. This was made painfully clear once we’d got the bus back to the centre of Seville, and were wondering around feeling extremely bubbly with our costumes on. We were met with very lukewarm responses. Nobody would let us in to any bars! In fact, when we needed the toilet, we had to sneak into a little pub! It was a harrowing experience.
This week we are all preparing to go to the last weekend of carnaval in Cadiz. We have been told that carnaval in Cadiz is “a life changing experience”. Hopefully in a good way? Time will tell!
|The Queen of Carnival/La Reina del Carnaval|
|Big Band Carnaval Costumes|
|Chickens. See how the giant nest is filled with balloon ‘eggs’….and alcohol.|
You can get the M115 or M112 bus to La Rinconada from Plaza de Armas bus station in Seville, it leaves every hour or so and takes 20 minutes. The bus route passes through Macarena via Doctor Fedriani. It’s really only worth visiting for the carnaval!