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Uruguay is often referred to as having an ambiance that evokes images of Eisenhower’s America. While in some ways, our little country is extremely progressive, in others, it is quaintly behind the times.
Case in point: While Uruguay has a policy that assures one laptop for every school child, certain important events are never announced online. Such is the case with the Atlantida carnival parade, which I discovered by accident a few weeks ago. But before I describe the parade, I need to tell you the back-story.
My brother is 12 years older than I am, and an avid film buff. When I was little, he sometimes took me to see films that I did not quite understand. Black Orpheus was one such film. Set in Brazil, it tells the story of Eurydice, who runs away to Rio to stay with her cousin during carnival season. She meets a trolley driver by the name of Orpheus, who falls madly in love with her. Eurydice is afraid that death, represented by a man in a black skeleton costume, was chasing after her.
If you know the Orpheus myth, she is correct. Sorry for the spoiler, but the girl dies, and Orpheus goes into “the underworld” to find her. Being much too young to understand the deep symbolism, I had nightmares for weeks after seeing that film. In fact, South American carnival music always evokes images of the dude in the skeleton costume.
Fast Forward to 2013
Somehow I end up living in South America. Atlantida, Uruguay, to be exact. One night, around midnight, I notice that my husband still has not walked Whistler, our big brindle greyhound. Mark said his shoulder was bothering him, so I begrudgingly became the midnight dog walker. Even though Atlantida is far safer than the big cities in which I have lived, I still maintain my city girl’s dislike of being outside and alone late at night. Adding to the problem, my night vision is not that great.
The Drum Beats Call to You
Normally, I would only walk Whistler down the block and back, but I heard the faint sound of drums and sensuous melodies in the near distance. Mesmerized, I followed the music, and walked for about a quarter of a mile. And suddenly, I found myself in the midst of the Atlantida carnival parade – but without the guy in the skeleton costume.
I watched, hypnotized as a group of men danced with a huge flag, evoking memories of my veil dancing days when I performed as a belly dancer.
While the bigger carnival takes place in Montevideo,there’s something about being up close and personal to the parade in our quaint little town. I walked home, feeling that I had been privy to something inexplicably special.
Candombe, the drums of Carnival.