From the decorations in gold, purple and green, to the lively music that filled the room, to the ornate glittering costumes, the Center for American and World Cultures’ A Carnival of Flavors showcased the energy and enthusiasm of the holiday, Carnival.
A tribute to the annual festival, celebrated in countries all over the world, this year’s event focused specifically on Brazilian culture. Carnival is the celebration prior to Mardi Gras, a lavish festival in many Latin American countries.
“The goal of Carnival is to mingle and engage the people with both Brazilian culture and one another,” said Silvia Rothschild, Latino outreach coordinator at Miami and the event’s organizer. “This event is a way to give the university and the community a look at a new culture and try things they may otherwise never be exposed to.”
Children were able to create masks and ornaments reminiscent of those seen at the real festival, courtesy of the event’s partner, Oxford Lane Library.
Guests were invited to sample the many treats provided to give a taste of Brazil. The Carnival-inspired fare included guava paste, plantains, tropical fruits, Guarana soda and brigadeiros, a chocolate and toffee creation similar to American fudge.
Thomas Garcia, professor of ethnomusicology and Latin American studies, gave a presentation highlighting the types of music, dance and costumes featured in Brazil’s Carnival. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Garcia was able to give personal accounts of his many experiences participating in Carnival.
“In most of the Americas, Mardi Gras is a major holiday,” said Garcia. “Part of my mission is to bring Brazil to the Americas and give people something they aren’t usually exposed to.”
Garcia told the anecdote of a dancer fainting from hours of dancing, weighed down by the heavy, sequined costume. Having personally danced in Carnival, he affirmed that the costumes were quite cumbersome but an invaluable experience.
The music during the presentation was instrumental, energetic and dynamic. It seemed contagious within the crowd, as spectators clapped and danced along. The costumes, brought from Garcia’s personal collection, were decorated with gems and intricate details, brought to life under the light.
Paula Gandara, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, donned another extravagant, bejeweled outfit. She also performed some traditional music and dance from the festival.
“Carnival is the greatest party in the world,” said Gandara. “It’s celebrated all over the world, not just in Brazil, but in parts of Europe and through Latin America. It’s a religious celebration in freedom, a paradox in itself.”
While Carnival appealed to members of the community, particularly families and children, the event provided a valuable cultural supplement to students studying Spanish and Portuguese culture.
“I’ve never had the privilege of traveling to Brazil,” said senior Julia Behrend. “So it’s great to see an event to understand something really culturally important.”