Contemplating Carnaval

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Although the paint has dried from the Carnaval festivities a couple weeks ago, the controversy certainly has not. Every year the issue of rampant painting, and the result of damage to person and property is evident. Sure it’s lots of fun but there are no limits to it, and the practise of painting is especially damaging and costly to local business owners. Not only do downtown entrepreneurs have to absorb the time and expense of wrapping plastic around their store fronts and expensive billboards to protect them from paint damage, often the painters tear down the plastic and maliciously deface the property anyways.

What most likely evolved from the original tradition of tossing flour during this celebration, the practise of throwing paint is not one that many island residents appreciate. Held hostage by a minority of island merrymakers that take great pleasure in the behaviour, many of us plan our days around escape routes to avoid the unsolicited painting to ourselves, our vehicles and whatever it is we may be carrying. With almost a mob mentality that can be frightening to foreigners and locals alike, we watch over our shoulders with the paranoia of being chased down the street by a gang of paint wielding juveniles or drunken adults who are just itching for some violence. Ultimately this behaviour is nothing but a license to vandalize property and terrorize those who choose not to participate.

Is this how we as a community should live during the days before Lent? Allowing a small group of rabble-rousers to instil a fear of being on the streets? Are we losing focus of what Carnaval is all about? Based on my internet research rampant painting during Carnaval is not widely practised and in areas where it does happen there are laws in place to protect persons and property.

There are wonderful Carnaval traditions in San Pedro that locals and visitors do enjoy immensely, especially the colourful and comical comparsas dancing. Why don't we capitalize on the positive characteristics of this annual event and market it to the world as being a Caribbean Carnaval destination? Just as our San Pedro Lobsterfest has grown in popularity over the few short years since its inception, Carnaval in San Pedro could be one more reason for visitors to come to our island and enjoy our festivities. If we can assure them safety from spiteful painters who consider it “open season” on unsuspecting guests, we could turn Carnaval into a profitable destination event for San Pedro. Not only would tourists enjoy the festivities but I can assure you more of the community would come out to play as well if they did not have the fear of being painted and molested by unruly revellers. Let’s take back Carnaval from the ones who are ruining it for us and make it into something we can all enjoy again.

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