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© Doña Masqueraders with Morenada Group,
Oruru, Bolivia 2003
Photograph by Robert Jerome
For all participants - rich or poor, young or old - Carnival provides the opportunity to play - leave the everyday world, become someone else, and behave in unusual ways. In Laza, Spain you might throw dirt and ants at your neighbors, in Venice, Italy you become an 18th-century count, while in Basel, Switzerland you wear a masquerade protesting the spread of mad-cow disease. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Recife and Olinda, Brazil, you are the queen of a royal court, in Tlaxcala, Mexico you burlesque as a French dandy, or in Oruro, Bolivia you take on the guise of a dancing devil. In Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago you strut down the street as a fancy sailor, while in New Orleans, USA you blacken your face, put on a grass skirt, and throw coconuts to the crowds.

This exhibition provides windows into eight communities in Europe and the Americas where Carnival is a high point of the yearly cycle. We see people who have dedicated much of their lives to planning, creating, practicing, and carrying out the festivities. Through their masquerades and performances we learn about the history and cultural traditions of the various regions. We observe Carnival participants as they relieve tensions and bring a sense of renewal to themselves and their communities. At the same time we gain a better understanding of the importance and function of Carnival play.

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Recife and Olinda, Brazil | Tlaxcala, Mexico | Venice, Italy | Laza, Spain
New Orleans, USA | Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago | Basel, Switzerland | Oruro, Bolivia
Museum of International Folk Art; Museum Hill, Santa Fe

New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs