The devil does not always wear Prada.
In Latin America he dresses in shabby red, carries a whip and walks with a limp suffered in The Great Fall. To his credit, he knows how to party and have a hell of a lot of fun.
SWC’s Carnival festival acknowledged the spiritual and the profane, all the while learning about the cultures that go with the languages. Hosted by the SWC World Languages Department, professors from the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish departments said they wanted to create a Mardi Gras-style experience for students that made learning fun.
Carnival and Mardi Gras are typically celebrations of the “desires of the flesh” where revelers squeeze in a big party before Ash Wednesday and the solemnity of Lent. Millions celebrate Carnival in Brazil, where fun and debauchery last five days and nights in serial parties, music festivals and parades characterized by scantily-clad women adorned with colorful feather crowns and costumes.
Professor of Italian Concetta Calandra said students were encouraged to take part in the festivities to learn about new cultures.
“It’s extremely important that students participated,” she said. “They are able to enjoy themselves and learn.”
Professors set up a scavenger hunt where students would be introduced to typical Venetian theatre characters and their costumes. Carnival revelers often sport harlequin masks, a comical theatre character that acts as a servant to nobles, and traditional long-beaked, wide-eyed plague doctor masks used by doctors treating those infected with the Black Death. Students designed their own masks in a mask-painting competition.
Calandra said Carnaval was a time where the poor man could hide his identity and dress as a noble, as well as a time for nobles to leave convention behind and behave as rowdily as they pleased.
“It was a time for trouble and crime before the period of Lent,” she said.
Capoeira music by the Associação de Capoeira e Cultura Afro (Association of Capoeira and Afro Culture) was a high point of the celebration. Multitalented Alejandro Gonzalez played a variety of instruments, including the berimbau, a Brazilian single bowed instrument, and the atabaque and the panderio, types of hand drums. He said the atabaque is special because it is played with the fingers on the inside of the drum and with the palms on the outside.
Musician Jazmin Flores said African slaves devised capoeira as a martial art disguised as a dance and that was ultimately used by slaves to liberate themselves in Brazil.
“Capoeira is culture and language,” she said. “Performances are prepared for days at a time for Carnival celebrations. It’s a part of everyday life too, capoeristas like to get together on the street, play music and have fun.”
Carnival is also celebrated throughout Europe, in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, and in the Spanish Caribbean, including Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Spanish instructor Rejane Diaz said Carnival celebrations in Latin America are distinctly tied to religious traditions, particularly Catholicism. Religious figures are also often found at carnivals, like the “limping devil” of the Dominican Republic.
“It’s a time to let your carnal desires out,” said Diaz. “People can prepare their own costumes, and wear masks that can be as big or twice the size of your head and just let go.”