“Cuz de ting so sweet, yeah/Sometimes I feel like I don’t wanna go home, no.” These lyrics from soca artist Voice epitomize the feeling of Carnival in Trinidad. Vibes. Joy. The sweetness of life. Wining in the middle of a cane field with Caesar’s Army. Chipping down the road in magnificent costumes with Tribe. Jumping up at fetes like Phuket, Soca Brainwash and Dirty Dozen.
I may be biased, but I consider Trinidad Carnival to be the greatest show on earth. Where else can you wake up at two o’clock in the morning to douse yourself in paint and mud with strangers, then take a quick nap and shower before heading to a beach or hillside to do it all again?
While the events associated with Carnival may conjure images of women in scantily clad clothing and drinking, the truth is there is so much significance to the celebrations. The history of Carnival dates back to the 18th century, when enslaved West Africans created their own tradition of masquerading in the fields with activities that centered on the burning and harvesting of sugar cane (called Canboulay).
Carnival is a symbol of freedom and defiance. This energy is still palpable today, from the sweet sound of soca to the rainbow of regal costumes that line the road on Carnival Tuesday. The tradition of Carnival is upheld through the pulsating rhythm of steel pan drums, the oil-covered jab jab, jumping up as the sun rises on J’ouvert morning and marching behind a sea of ornate headpieces through Port of Spain.
Trinidad draws thousands of visitors from around the world to Carnival each year, but the country is worth a visit anytime because of its diverse people, food and of celebration of life 365 days a year.
De ting really is so sweet.
Kristin Braswell is a travel writer based in New York City. Follow her brand, CrushGlobal Travel, on Instagram @crushglobal.
All photos by Sean Michael Fields of NEXUS Networks.