Tuesday, February 24, 2009

C is for Cookie

Despite six-plus months of salsa lessons, unfortunately, I’m (still) not much of a dancer. Though I've improved a lot -- I’m at the point where I can twirl and dip my way through a 10-minute Ricardo Arjona song -- my “gringa” DNA works against me. I don’t seem to have the coordination in my shoulders, hips, and, um, rear area that allows my Mexicana classmates to move so gracefully.

I usually blame my lack of coordination on the “gringa” factor. But this weekend, at a Carnaval celebration in the tiny town of Putla, Oaxaca, Mexico, I had a better excuse for not having rhytm:

I was wearing a glorified Cookie Monster costume. (See the very flattering pic above.)

Yessir. I was weighed down by about 30 meters of bright blue fabric, cut into strips and sewn into a button-up shirt and pair of second-hand pants that were too big for me. I was crammed into a tiny plaza with hundreds of similarly-dressed folks (decked out in bright yellow, green and red fabrics that made them look like Big Bird, Oscar and Elmo…the Sesame Street comparisons continue). We all wore cotton masks and straw hats. Some had strapped pillows onto their backs for a hunchback effect.

When I asked about the origin of these very unique Carnaval costumes, nobody seemed to know, happily brushing off the subject by pouring me another shot of tequila.

Putla's usually-sleepy, tiny streets were flooded with tourists who had flocked to town for the Carnaval celebration. An unexpected rainstorm had cut the town's power supply. And the throngs of cell-phone wielding revelers overloaded the circuits in the area, paralyzing phone service.

So we paraded through the pitch-black streets, following the sound of drums and guitars and trumpets, sweating bullets (the heavy costumes, coupled with Putla's sticky tropical climate and, well, all the booze, had kind of an oven effect).

It was Mardi Gras à la Sesame Street. It was chaos. And it was hella fun.

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