Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Thousands throng streets for Portugal's biggest carnival parade

12 Feb 2018, 08:51 ( 11 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report by Jethro Soutar

Thousands of revellers thronged the streets of Torres Vedras, a town 50 km north of Lisbon, to celebrate Portugal's biggest carnival parade on Sunday.

This year's theme was "The Sea and Oceans," chosen by the Royal Fraternity of Torres Carnival, an organizing group of the carnival.

"It's our responsibility to preserve to the maximum the traditions that make this the most Portuguese of all Portugal's carnivals," said Antonio Miranda, chancellor of the fraternity.

Besides picking the theme, the fraternity selects the carnival king and queen. Miranda had served as the king for 10 years before passing the mantle to his son.

Once the theme is chosen, local groups are invited to submit ideas for costumes and designs for floats.

Helder Silva was part of the Gravity Balance design team whose concepts were chosen for four of the eight carnival floats.

"The strength of the Torres Vedras carnival has always been its satirical humor ... the way it pokes fun at politicians and social issues of the day," he said.

"I love seeing the floats," said Jessica, who had come up from Lisbon dressed as an angel. "Donald Trump sitting on the toilet was probably the highlight."

"The king and the queen were very good this year. Their float was brilliantly conceived," said Ana, also from Lisbon. "But the best float was surely Marcelo the Octopus!"

The float depicted Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the president of Portugal, as a cross between God of the Sea Neptune and an octopus, an allusion to his tireless involvement in numerous causes.

"The floats were very good this year," said Teresa, also from Lisbon. She was attending with an Italian friend, Guiseppe, and they were dressed as a mermaid and a sailor respectively.

"Of the parade costumes, I thought the jellyfish were particularly good," she said.

Ricardo was one of those jellyfish. He wore an umbrella for a headdress with steamers dangling down in front of his face. This was his first Torres Vedras carnival and he was experiencing it as a participant in the Alforrecas Gradilenses group - the Jellyfish from Gradil.

"I was invited to join the group and it's been great fun," he said. "We paraded all last night and have already done several circuits today, so it's tiring, but totally worth it."

Maria, from the nearby town of Alenquer, no longer dresses up. "I'm too old for that now," she said, "but I still come every year because I love the atmosphere."

Joao Alexandre was born and bred in Torres Vedras. By his reckoning, this is his 45th carnival.

"It seems to get bigger every year," he said. "But I like it best at night, that's when the real carnival gets going."

Once the floats stop parading the streets, the party moves into the town squares where DJs keep the crowds dancing until 4 o'clock in the morning.

The routine will be repeated on Monday and Tuesday. A display of fireworks brings an end to proceedings on Wednesday.

The local government has a budget of 650,000 euros (790,000 U.S. dollars) for the six-day carnival and expects 350,000 visitors to come and experience the revelry.