As I write this, I am sitting on my back porch, somewhere between mango season and Carnival season. To the uninitiated, the blue skies above and warm day cooled by the trade winds suggest summer. But this is an island in the tropics – it’s always summer; so, we have other ways to mark the passage of time. Growing up in Antigua, the so-called “summer” has been the season to raid the mango tree and eat more than our share of the sweetest thing ever (a blessing and a curse, this devilishly beguiling fruit). We even have a festival for it in Antigua and have for about 12 years. These days, it’s actually the Mango and Pineapple Fest (Antigua Black Pineapple reportedly being one of the sweetest in the world) but, as every mango lover knows, the mango is the star attraction. It’s a mango-palooza with takeaways including mango trees (so you can plant your own), mango delicacies (sweet and savoury), and, of course, the mango itself. There’s also a culinary arts and mixology competition where chefs and bartenders vie to create winning recipes.
When you have as many mangoes as we do during mango season, you’ve got to get creative. Mango Season and Mango Fest segues smoothly into Carnival (which, in Antigua, takes place late July to early August). For me, Carnival was my introduction to poetry (calypso), theatre (mas, pageantry, calypso again), and the intoxicating power of music (steelpan to iron band to jam band to calypso and soca).
My Carnival memories include the John Bull charging the crowd and the Moko Jumbie floating above it, the squish of bodies and comical sights on J’ouvert morning, being a majorette and playing mas, growing into the appreciation that this festival, which intersects with August 1st, Emancipation Day, celebrating our liberation and our creativity, is so much more than a giant party. Though it is also that *wink, wink*.
Back in the day, hurricane season and back to school, like the wet blankets they are, followed Carnival season – now the expanded hurricane season kind of hangs over our heads like a dark, immovable cloud but even it can’t stop the Carnival. Growing up on an island, you learn to read and shift with the “seasons,” and appreciate the simple things like that late season mango I just plucked from my tree and the anticipation of being on the road once again for mas in 2017, the 60th Anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival.
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In what ways do you mark the passage of time on your rock without definitive weather seasons to do so for you?