Carnival: More Than Just a Party – A Platform for Dissent and Democracy
February 12, 2024
Today marks the climax of the carnival, with thousands parading the streets in celebration. The majority, I assume, will dance and cheer on the participants. Carnival is a time when masks are put on, yet some argue they are also put off. I am not a fan of carnival, nor am I an expert on it. However, upon reflection, I realize that carnival serves many purposes beyond being a mere party – it reduces stress, fosters cohesion, and notably serves as a platform for dissent.
In countries like Trinidad and Aruba, dissent finds its voice during carnival. Who can forget the calypso "The Sinking Ship" by The Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco)? Or in Aruba, Claudius Phillips, known as Mighty Talent, with his songs addressing the situation on the island (Situacion na Aruba), including critiques of the Prime Minister (in is song “Prime Minister”). In Curaçao, dissent has been scarce over the past fifty years. Issues such as race were addressed, for instance, by the late Harry Zimmerman, and complaints about the unreliability of the power supply were voiced by a kid in the festival for the youth.
In Curaçao, politicians do not fear carnival; rather, it is their platform. They are carried and adored during the festivities, parading freely in the streets and celebrated by the unemployed and poor. For many, the carnival is a time to momentarily forget their dire circumstances. The only dissent often comes from the LGBTQ+ community, who have notably succeeded in acknowledging their presence and rights during carnival.
In Curaçao, carnival has transcended racial issues, illustrating the lack of dissent in our democracy. This lack of dissent ultimately leads to little cohesion. After all, as the saying goes, "rails cannot be held together without cross-ties" and "without darkness, there is no light."