Carnival in the twenty first century is quite different from the way it was in the 1920s and 1940s. In days gone by, there was lot of theatre involved and masqueraders covered themselves. Moreover, dance and song were an essential part of the street festival. In the book The Cocoa Panyols of Trinidad; an Oral Record you can read about two Carnival Venezuelan masquerades that were introduced into Trinidad by the Cocoa Panyols, the Pajaro Guarandol and the Burriquita. The Burriquita survived in our local Carnival longer than the Pájaro Guarandol, but both are still well known in neighbouring Venezuela today.
I will now present you the description of these two Carnival characters from my Cocoa Panyol treasure chest, recorded in my book The Cocoa Panyols of Trinidad, An Oral Record. Felix Boneo was another cocoa panyol who shared his memories with me:
The ‘Pájaro’ (The Bird)
Felix hummed and sang, sang and hummed musically. I learned about two masquerades that were very popular among the ‘españoles’ at Carnival time in the first half of the twentieth century: El Pájaro Guarandol or Guarandó and La Burriquita. These two diversiones or parrandas can be traced to Eastern Venezuela. Felix sang for me:
No me lo mate señol cazadol. Don't kill it, Mr. Hunter. Ese es el guarandol This is the guarandol que pica la flor which sips at the flower
That is what the small band of revellers, sang as they went along the street with the dancing Pájaro, the Bird, which was a reveller disguised as a beautifully adorned bird. The ‘master’ of the Pájaro and his friends, both men and women, were all dressed uniformly in bright costumes. The group also included the hunter, El cazadol, with his shotgun, escopeta, and finally the musicians who played the cuatro, violin and mandolin. Eventually, the hunter would shoot the bird which fell to the ground. The owner demanded payment for the bird because it was expensive. The hunter and the master’s friends then went around collecting money from the spectators to compensate for the loss of the bird. When they had sufficient money they continued along the way, dancing and singing as before.
Felix recalled that once in Maturita, close to Arima, there had been a terrible clash on the bridge when the Pájaro was actually killed by another group of masqueraders. There had been a brawl: “Pelea y pleito muy maluco, (fight and court house),” said Felix. What was planned as street theatre and fun was converted into a spectacle that was no longer make believe! The Pájaro didn’t survive in the Trinidad Carnival, unlike La Burriquita, in which no guns were used.
The ‘Burriquita’ (The Bourriqueet)
A small group of ten or more girls and men also danced. They wore light alpargatas on their feet. They all intoned the chorus: ‘Ay sí, ay no, la pitá que tengo yo . . . con el sereno de la noche la pitá se me quitó’. Felix said “Then somebody give the burriquita mal de ojo (maljo), so the burriquita fall down and they have to go and get the doctor,”. “The doctor just a little way from there in his shirt, a black frock coat and a top hat, it was high so!. That is how he used to dress. He would get the burra, the donkey, to stand up again, but they have to pay, they have to pay for that. So everybody in the band playing and dancing, everybody have to go and collect money. The queen of the band and everybody gone dancing and singing until they get enough money. The queen have a big bag, a busaca. They throw the money in it, six cents, 12 cents, shilling . . . It was very nice.”, said Felix proudly.
“Si mi burra se me muere If my donkey dead usted me la ha de pagar . . . you will have to pay me . . .
When the time reach for the burra to get up, the master say: ‘Levanta, levanta, burra, get up, get up.’ When the burriquita get up, everybody gone down the road dancing again. When they reach the corner and they meet up another crowd of people, they stay there for another three minutes dancing the same way. Is nice but they don’t do that again. We use to do it for Carnival every year, every year.”
So what do you think about those two Carnival masquerades? You can find out more about them from Venezuelan friends and acquaintances. Check the internet as well. You will be surprised!