costumes and colorful times in Canada
question, carnival had become a symbol
of freedom for the broad mass of the population
and not merely a season for frivolous
enjoyment. It had a ritualistic significance,
rooted in the experience of slavery and
in the celebration of freedom from slavery...Adopted
by the Trinidad people it become a deeply
meaningful anniversary of deliverance
from the most hateful form of human bondage."
Errol Hill in The Trinidad Carnival, 1972.
returned to Toronto this summer and attended
Caribana with some of my closest friends.
Here is my story of North America's largest
street festival celebrating Caribbean
is a two-week festival in Toronto Canada,
and draws thousands of tourists from all
parts of the United States, England, and
the Caribbean. As Caribana is in
it's 38 year, it has steadily grown to
over 1 million people gathering to witness
this colorful and vibrant celebration
of West Indian culture on Toronto's Lakeshore
Blvd along Lake Ontario.
become familiarized with the history or
significance of Caribana we must start
at the beginning. Caribana is in
essence a Carnival. Carnivals began
as a way to celebrate Lent or the harvest
of a crop, and also served as a celebration
for the emancipation of slavery (1834
in the Caribbean).
the birthplace of Carnival, began with
two key elements - the torch and drums.
The drums were very influential as they
were the African way to not only dance,
but to communicate. Often the French and
British plantation owners forbade drumming
- for obvious reasons - banning any communication
they couldn't understand. Originally,
Carnival was a celebration of the underclass
and faced scrutiny by the middle and upper
class of Trinidad for fear that this celebration
would provoke a riot. As it grew the government
had no choice but to support and over
the years it grew to be the largest in
the world. Today, Carnival is emulated
all around the world - England, Brooklyn,
Rio, Toronto - to name a few.
Author Joni Bishop and
was organized in 1967 by a group of 10
West Indian migrants in Toronto.
Their dream was to create a monument of
goodwill, a confirmation of Caribbean
culture, and a statement of belonging
to their adopted land, Canada.
Caribana brings in over $300 million each
year and is the countries premier tourist
attraction, yet only receives $25,000-$50,000
in funding from the Canadian government.
This is a source of extreme controversy
for West Indian immigrants.
is an annual ritual for many West Indians
who now live in the North, especially
for the Guyanese and Trini's. Caribana
is truly a celebration of culture and
struggle proudly faced in the wake of
adversity throughout our history in the
myself, as a Guyanese who was born in
Toronto, grew up in Guyana, and now living
in America, Caribana has very special
attended Caribana since I was 9 years
old. Like every West Indian child, I remember
waking up the day of the parade and practicing
my jump up moves in the mirror while my
mom got ready, and waiting for my uncle
to pick us up in (what I remember to be)
his ultra cool red sports car.
are filled with excitement and energy
from the moment your eyes open to walking
into the parade area. The music
saturates your eardrums with the infectious
beats of soca, steel drums, and dancehall
reggae. Then delicious aromas of Guyanese,
Trini, and Jamaican foods fill the air,
and roasted corn was a must. And,
despite the swarms of people that surrounded
you - you knew where everyone came from,
what island they were representing.
As you may know, we West Indian's are
very proud of our heritage, and take every
opportunity to display our flag - anywhere
on our body! This day was certainly
Orange Crush of Beauty
remember the colorful, gigantic floats
with adorned men and women leading as
I sat on the bleachers with my mom and
her friends cheering on the floats, and
screaming in excitement as each Guyanese
float strolled by.
years later, at 29 years old, I returned
to Caribana with my entourage of closest
friends. As we planned the trip
up to Toronto, mapping out the routes
and stops along the 8-hour journey into
Toronto the energy I experienced as a
youngster filled me up.
to Page 2