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Sunday, February 26, 2006

el carnaval, lobster farming and 20 years of democracy

every year during the month of february there´s a carnaval all over uruguay. when i was little and still living here, my parents told me that i got so excited over it! the carnival is like mardi gras. it´s 40 days before easter and it´s around the same time as the carnival in rio. brazil and uruguay are the only countries in south america to have a carnival. every night this week there´s a parade in some of the larger cities in uruguay and they show it live on tv. back in the 70´s the parades weren´t as big and sophisticated as they are now. now they have sponsors and prizes for best costume, music, dancing, make up... the carnical is a big deal here and people spend the whole year preparing their costumes and the choreography. every parade looks different but they usually follow one parade. there´s a groupe of 20-30 people in a costume with a drums around their waists (you even see 7 year old kids doing it) and druming at the same time as their walking and right in front of them is a woman in a glittery thong bikini with glitter all over her body, and feathers on top of her head, dancing the samba. i´ve also seen men dancing too. a lot of times it´s just groups of women sometimes they´re very young girls too. they always stop to dance with the kids. it´s very interactive. every parade has a queen. they call it la reina del carnaval (the queen of the carnaval). in montevideo there´s thousands of people in a stadium watching murga bands. a popular band is los diblos verdes (the green devils) and it´s a group of 10 men in wild glittery clown make-up with a green costume singing murga songs and doing performances with drummers behind them. murga started with the blacks in the ghetto of montevideo´s ciudad vieja in the 19th century. then other people started getting into. just like it happened with blues music in the southern united states. murga is now really popular here and lots of people love it. the lyrics are always about what the government isn´t doing for the country. for the first time uruguay has a left wing government but the government here is still corrupt. the same way it is in most latin american countries. that´s why i could never really live here. a couple of days ago in piriapolis they started the carnival. i don´t know if there´s a parade here because there´s a really big one in maldonado which is the town just before getting to punta del este. here at night they have booths with people selling food and all kinds of other things like clothing and cd´s and there´s a stage with different performances. they had clowns and this guy singing tango music. but it was cold and i didn´t stay long.

the weekends here are so busy with people coming from montevideo. that´s the only way i know it´s the weekend. the beach this morning was amazing and the water was so warm. no jellyfish. just clear water and lots of waves. i couldn´t really swim as well because of the waves.

yesterday i went to a lobster farm. my dad´s friend (the one with the restaurant) picked us up to take us to take us to the animal reserve but on the way there we stopped at his lobster farm. him and his own have been doing it for the past 3 years. when the economic crash happened in argentina in 2001, the restaurant did very badly and they had to find a way to do something else so they started this farm. it´s a 20 minute drive from here and you´re really in the middle of nowhere. there´s cows, sheep and ostridges everywhere. they belong to the farm next door. it´s really intersting seeing how a lobster grows. it´s not really a lobster. it´s a cross between a prawn and a lobster and it´s called langosta (that´s the spanish word for it). first they have small containers of water with these things that look like bricks that are in the water and that´s where they grow. i took a picture of one that´s an inch small. it´s hard to see them because they like darkness and they stay in the holes of the bricks. when they get big enough they get transfered outside to a larger container, probably 5 metres wide, with water from a well being pumped through the earth. it takes a year for a langosta to grow and when they get big, their colours are so beautiful. they´re trying to sell them to restaurants right now and they use it for their own restaurant but they´re not making much money with it yet.

at the animal reserve, they had all the animals that live in uruguay. mostly animals that i haven´t seen anywhere else. they had this animal called the collared pecarry. it looks like a pig but the texture of the animal is like a porcupine.

on march 1st in uruguay there´s a new law that you can´t smoke in any public place. i´m glad that´s finally happened because i´m not used to eating in a restaurant and having someone next to me start smoking. it´s rude. in montreal the law begins on may 1st. my dad´s saying that in montreal a lot of bar and restaurants are going to go out of business but i think people are going to adapt to it and just smoke outside.

for the past 20 years uruguay´s been a democratic country. it started in 1985. the year we came back for the first time. we didn´t want to come back before then because it was a dictatorship government and that´s why we left in the first place. i think democracy happened around the same time in argentina. if you spoke against the government, you were put in jail and in some cases killed. there´s semething called the disappeared "los desaparecido" and it´s all the people that were killed in the 70´s but their bodies were never found or disclosed to anyone and now the parents of those people are demonstrating because the want disclosure. i think that´s been in the news in canada.

last week the first gay cruise came to montevideo. that´s a good sign of people being more open here ´cause some of my last memories of uruguay wasn´t of people being very open minded and embracing differences in people.

there´s abandonned dogs everywhere! it´s sad when you see that they look sick or hungry. people don´t do anything about it because it´s so common. you see really cute ones like dalmatians and sometimes even puppies. lots of people with pets don´t spay or neuter their animals. then they get pregnant and they don´t know what to do with the puppies.

today is sunday and it´s the day of assado. it´s a tradition to have assado on sunday´s. that means that everywhere you go, it smells like barbecued meat. it smells really good, but not good enough for me to eat.


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