When dinner was over, we decided to wander to the Yumbo Centre, a shopping centre in Playa, and were surprised to see gathering crowds on what we assumed would be a quiet night. This, we found out, was the culmination of the Carnival activity and the last night of partying. Tonight there was to be a special staged performance to celebrate the funeral and the "burial of the fish." So that explained the rather somber procession we saw earlier and also why someone was setting fire to the model of the fish.
People were everywhere: hanging over first floor balconies, sitting on the stairs leading to the centre, balancing on statues, but most of all, cramming into the square. By luck we’d got there early enough to see the start of the performance, but more than often found ourselves admiring the audience itself. Many of the revellers were theatrically dressed, and we rubbed shoulders with pantomime dames, with make-up caked on to their faces, and immaculately dressed young women wearing up-to-date fashion, usually with a comical twist. Off the square the guys paraded in their ornate drag dresses, people arrived in their Mafioso attire, there was an abundance of "school girls," and everyone was just riotous.
We saw no evidence of drunkards, but all seemed to be "well oiled" and in good spirits. We would have joined in with the singing, but we mostly couldn’t understand a thing!
But it really didn’t matter–the atmosphere was electric and the spirit of Carnival couldn’t have been better.
On stage a trail of actors, dancers, singer, and "artistic performers" came and went and the "skeleton" of the fish was revealed. Occasionally we thought the fire was getting out of control, but no one else seemed to care; if anything, the stage performers became more frenzied in their actions, creating draughts of wind to fan the flames. I was left feeling, at times, that live performances should be banned, as the off-key singers yelled out their tuneless songs. But at that end of the day (and it was now reaching the end of ours!), the enthusiasm of the performers and the audience soon removed that thought.
The finale, as the dying embers of the fish floated to the floor, was a spoof wake. The characterisations on stage were great to watch, as the individual players settled down to dance the Spanish equivalent of the last waltz. The applause was deafening, and the smiles on everyone’s faces, including ours, were a pleasure to behold.
Carnival was great–long live the fish!
December 8, 2004
From journal Carnival in Gran Canaria