GRAN NATIONAL CARNIVAL IN LA CEIBA!

I thought Carnival was just a one day event, but what do I know about Carnivals? Ten days of street closures. Ten days of tons of people selling more of what a few normally sell everyday in the street market. Ten days of gambling. Ten days of tons of greasy street food. Ten days of live music with dancers in skimpy outfits. And ten days of a lot of drinking going on.

But before all that starts, there is the blessing of the patron saint, San Isidro (Saint Isidore). The reason for the Carnival is to celebrate this patron saint. Now who was this San Isidro and why does he get a whole country honoring him? Well, as I just learned Saint Isidro is not only the patron saint of La Ceiba, he is the patron saint of Madrid, Spain as well, where he lived in the early 1100’s and where miracles happened around him, such as being assisted by angles in the field so he had more time to pray.

Hundreds of La Ceiba school children carried “lanterns” made out of wood, colored cellophane and candles down the main street of La Ceiba, aptly named Avenida de San Isidro. They walked relatively quietly to a big stage in the middle of the road where many priests were singing. After the blessings, Carnival officially starts which means lots of Carnivalitos (little carnivals) leading up to the big one, Gran National Carnival.

Click the Photo Below for the Blessing Ceremony Album:

Carnival – Blessing of San Isidro – May 09

The first Carnivalito we went to was in Barrio El Iman, not far from our apartment. It was small and not too crowded, but had the same things we learned later that all the Carnivalitos had. There was home made gambling tables, music, dancers, beer, stuff for sale and greasy French fries. Jim and I basically just did a walk through to check it out.

Click the Photo Below for the Barrio El Iman Carnivalito Album:

Carnival – El Iman – May 09

I happened upon the beginnings of the Carnivalito in Barrio El Ingles. This Barrio is not considered a safe hood, but it is where Casa Del Nino is located. I walk through it to and from work most days and nothing seems really bad to me, but I am not there at night. The day of their Carnivalito, I was walking home and got to see the opening Parade. It was so cute! A fire engine with tons of kids on top followed by Garifuna drummers and dancers, a snare drum core, tiny little girl dancers, and in the rear was the parade queens and princesses of all ages, well all ages under 18 that is! I did not stay for the party, but enjoyed seeing the little parade-cito!

There were Carnivalitos going on every night of the week, but we saved ourselves for the Barrio El Sauce Carnivalito and our friend Audrey’s pre-party! Wooo Hoo! Barrio El Sauce is where we lived when we first moved to La Ceiba with a family in a home-stay. It is an upper middle class neighborhood, but the people at the Carnival were from all over.

As I mentioned, Audrey had an impromptu pre-party where we all met before hitting the crowds of the Carnivalito. There were around 15 people at Audrey’s, but the street was packed because all her neighbors were having parties as well. BBQs smoking, people hooting and hollering, videos projected on outdoor screens with music blaring… you get the picture, good times for everyone. And that was not even the Carnivalito!

With not enough food in our bellies and three rum cocktails under our belt, Jim and I finally got a group to go to the Carnivalito to have some dinner. We found a street restaurant with open tables and snagged them. We all had a tipico Honduran meal, grilled chicken, beef or pork with refried beans, a small ensalada and fried plantains. Jim, Audrey and Corey had an after dinner shot of Guifity, a Garifuna spice, herbal and rum drink that usually tastes like crap.

The rest of us refilled our beer cups and a-gambling we went. My favorite thing at the tables this particular night was all the kids gambling! Hee hee! Vegas has nothing on these Carnivalitos! One Lempira bills (approximately 6 cents U.S.) were all over the table, but still none of us came out a winner. After a while and a couple more beers, we needed a potty break so we went back to Audrey’s for a bit. I am not sure what went on there, but from the pictures it looked like I put on a one woman show and Jim followed it up with his musical talents on the conch. Whatever was going on, fun was had by all!

Click on the Photo Below for the El Sauce Carnivalito Album:

Carnival – El Sauce – May 09

After that break we went back to the Carnivalito, bands were still playing, dancers were still dancing, but some of the gambling tables were empty. I stepped in and tried to make some money for myself, but was quickly kicked out! We danced some, watched the dancers a little, took more photos, and when we realized it was after 2:00am we flagged down a taxi for home.

Although not feeling great most of the day, we rallied to check out the Barrio La Isla Carnivalito the next night. We got a late start after a late dinner, so the streets were already a bit full. Not even 10 minutes into being at this Carnivalito, the you-know-what hit the fan and I saw it all in action.

Jim and I were with Jennifer, a house guest, Audrey and Audrey’s friend Cory. In most areas, the carnival was not completely crowded, except in front of stages where bands were playing. Opposite this one crowded band scene was a Salva Vida stand…a wood square structure where you can buy beer. It made a bit of a bottle neck which was obviously a good spot for crime to take place.

Cory was right in front of me and I saw it all come together. It was such a racket. It was crowded but people could still move through at a regular pace. Out of nowhere, I saw these men rush in crowding Cory like all of a sudden it got really packed. I looked at the guys weird and kind of pushed them away with my body then I realized this was something different. I looked down and put my hand on Cory’s front right pocket to see if they were trying to get in and Cory turned around to me saying, “They have already felt me there to see where my wallet is.” Cory knew what was going on too. Fortunately, he did not have one…he learned last year the hard way when he got pick pocketed and trampled at the Gran Carnival. They let us through after they knew we caught on.

So a bunch of these thieving butt head pick pockets stay around this one corner and basically lock you in until you are completely stuck. I got through the crowd but Jim was at the end of our group. I worried about him because he is not like me. I would NOT allow myself to be stuck in a crowd thanks to my slight case of claustrophobia, but he is nice and not as likely to push unless provoked. I saw him in that crowd of pick pockets, he was around 30 feet from me. There was a huge crowd and a loud band right there, but I screamed his name and told him to get out. He heard me, but was not sure what I was saying and did not push through. He looked so helpless. Of course trying to save the beer in one hand and having his hand in his other pocket on his money did not help his balance at all.

All in all the pickpockets were not going to hurt Jim, they just wanted something to steal. Still Jim did not move and I do not know what I was thinking, but I was so angry and afraid. I moved quickly and went in to get to him. I have a talent for getting through crowds, I do not care who I push, shove or step on. By the time I got to him I saw the guy in front of Jim blatantly blocking the way with a woman helping as well . I put my hand on the guys chest grabbed his shirt and shoved him away. Like I said, I did not know what I was thinking!

He looked at me like “I didn’t do anything” but did not come back at me. The rest of the pick pockets backed off and we got out of the crowd. Fortunately, Jim too did not have a wallet and had his hand in his pocket protecting what he did have. Afterward, Jim explained he was not that bothered by it all because he was not worried through the whole thing. Of course he did not know he was in the middle of a pick pocketing scam. Well, we all did go away from that scene pick pocketed free, but from the excitement, my heart was beating fast and hard.

But it is not over. We all talked about it while we walked on, but relaxed a bit to look at jewelry and the such. Then I saw these 3 women standing way too freakin’ close to us especially when it was not crowded at all where we were. I told the others to watch out for them. Even though I was obvious about my gestures to let these women know I knew what they are up to…they did not move from us. They had their sights set. Audrey had this large long strapped purse hanging across her chest and loosely at the side of her hip. Now we know she was their target.

We moved to a nearby little gambling table, and the women followed. I watched one of them take some money out like she was going to gamble, but also watched another one stare at me while I took money out of my wallet. I played two rounds, but kept my eye on the women. I could not see what they were really doing from where I was so I looked at Jennifer. From where she was standing she could watch them, well kind of. The women never gambled and then all of a sudden they left. After we stopped gambling we talked about the women which made Audrey checked her purse. They got her wallet.

I was so freaking mad. I am not a violent person, but I wanted to grab one of them by the hair and drag them to a police officer. And on top of it I felt bad because I should have said something to the women. If I said, “I know what you are doing, leave!” I think they would have moved on. Jennifer felt bad too because she was watching them, but they crowd so close into you and they are such professionals at it, you do not even know!!!

There are always bad people in a sea of good people that makes it suck for some. We called it a night, we were all tired from the night before anyway and the predators made it hard to enjoy the festivities.

I did not get a good night sleep though, seeing Jim in that crowd of pickpockets scared me. I was anxious all night long, but woke up feeling better and ready for the Gran Carnival Parade!

The Gran Carnival de La Amistad (Carnival of Friendship) started in the afternoon, lead by the parade. The parade was to begin at 2:00pm, so we were meeting a friend at 1:30pm. We walked more than half way down the parade route to get to our meeting place and it was already a mob scene. Okay, calling it a mob scene is a bit much. It was full of people, but not packed, well, until we got in front the city hall.

Half way to our destination, we nearly ran into El Presidente de Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, aka Mel Zelaya. He was getting out of a horse drawn carriage with what appeared to be his wife and daughter. We were wrapped up in the media and secret service mayhem. But they did not ask us to leave and there was tall ‘ole Mel in his cowboy hat within reach of us. I told Jim to start taking photos, which he had already started to do. Along with El Presidente was Miss Honduras as well. Two Honduran royalties in one viewing!

Since this is the first blog I have brought up El Presidente I feel I must give you some information on him as well. He is said to be the “Man of the People,” but some people think he is using the poor people’s lack of education as a tool to get voted in again in 2010. He increased the minimum wage 60% in one fair shot! Nice for the people working for employers that pay the legal minimum wage, but how are these small and even medium business owners going to pay that huge bump in costs without raising prices? And what about the vast number of people that are not paid minimum wage, or 28% that are unemployed, 63% that are poor or 45% that are extremely poor that depend on all of the commodities that are now going to go up in price? Okay, raise the wage, because $5.00 dollars a day is not much, but 60% all at once? And I hear crime has gone up, unemployment has gone up and the economy has gone down since he has been president. I’m sure it’s not all his fault, he will be judged by what he does about these important issues and how well his policies work out. Well, although it may seem like it in the above tirade, I will not go on because I do not know much about Honduran politics or good ‘ole Mel. First here is wikipedia’s view on Mel Zelaya. I especially like their link to the “Corruption Perception Index”

Click Photo Below for El Presidente Photo Album:

Carnival – El Presidente – May

While searching for info on Mel, I also found this blog, Born in Honduras. The author was born in Honduras and lives in Tegucigalpa now, but writes his blog in English. I like how he writes and I am entertained by his view of Honduran politics.

After running into El Presidente we met up with Katrina to watch the parade together in front of the school where we took Spanish lessons. First we saw horse after horse, and just like in Gualala for the Honduran Memorial Day Weekend Celebration, the horses were grand and graceful. They were doing a special walk, even tapping in between steps as well. It was awesome to watch, but I felt sorry for those horses as the parade was going very slow and it was crazy hot. Amazingly so, the riders look cool as cucumbers in their jeans, nice long sleeve shirts, hats and boots….how do they do it?

The rest of the parade was filled with the young, the old and the in between marching, singing, dancing and playing instruments in all sorts of costumes with all the colors of the rainbow. And in between those marchers were big floats carrying hot young ladies in Carnival type sexy outfits, lots of skin and feathers! Jim was in charge of taking their photos, he was happy. One of my favorites was the Float little tiny Chiquita Banana Girls and their tiny Ricky Ricardo Latin Lover look a-likes! And I got a kick out of the Pepsi float were all the girls were wearing sexy athletic outfits with black high heeled boots, and sticking from the top of those boots were white socks and knee highs. Not so sexy, but I doubt any guys noticed that part! Oh, let me not forget the Mazola float, where two pretty masked ladies were throwing out mini tubes of lard to the crowds. The crowds loved it, except one small child who got walloped across the side of the head with one.

It was a nice day, we had a liquado to cool off first, then some meat pinchos (meat on a stick) to snack on and followed up with an ice cream! Not the French diet, but the two beers we had after the makes up for the rest. We kind of followed the end of the parade a bit, so the streets were not completely open for walking. It was tight at times, but it was not frantic like at the Carnivalitos at night.

Once we made it by the real thick area we just enjoyed ourselves watching the crowds. A lot of people were looking up to people on balconies wanting beaded necklaces thrown down for them. I got one guy to throw one to me, but a young guy able to jump higher than me got it. I am okay with that, cheap mardi gras beads are not worthy of a fight, but another guy who knocked my beer all over me while he was trying to get some was! No, I jest, but I did say, “Gracias!” with an attitude to him. Jim complimented me on using my Spanish.

My favorite part of the after parade parties-just-getting-started time was when some people on a balcony threw around 100 1 Lempira bills down. They came floating down and their faded red color made for festive confetti, not to mention the frenzy that it prompted on the street below. On our way out we ran into our friend, Tyler, who was buying a hand made palm bird hat…loooved it! I wish I got me one too.

Click Photo Below for Gran Carnival Parade Photo Album:

Gran National Carnival – May 09

I am sorry to disappoint anyone, but that was the end of our Carnival celebrations. We just could not handle the crowds there that night and went to Audrey’s house for dinner for some excellent homemade chicken curry instead. In honor of the last night of Carnival we did throw back a couple of Salva Vidas. And then our age kicked in, we were yawning and ready to get home around 9:30pm!

Carnival set us up for our summer of celebrations. Well, the summer months of June, July and August that is (Summer here started at the beginning of April and ends around July – mind you it is hot here all the time). We leave May 29th for a three week trip through Northern Costa Rica and Nicaragua for another visa renewal. Then July 1st, the Mayer’s of Braunfels, TX are visiting for 2 weeks! After that we have a long weekend in Utila the first weekend in August for Sun Jam, a techno music festival. And we end August up with my two teen nephews from Oregon visiting here for two weeks. Wooo Hoooo! With this all said, my writing may slack off for awhile. If I can write short posts, which a lot of you know just may be impossible, I will do quickies to keep you abreast of our whereabouts.

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~ by HenderBalz on May 28, 2009.

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