An American Carnival

Mardi gras, (literally, “Fat Tuesday” in French) is celebrated the world over in Francophone or formerly French communities. It celebrates the same dates on the Catholic liturgical calendar as its colossal, and more infamous cousin, the Brazilian Carnaval.

Perhaps the best known Mardi Gras is the annual celebration of music, inebriation and general pre Lenten excess that fills the streets of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter. A cultural vestige of the 16th Century French colonization of large swaths of North America. This cultural exception defied (and still defies!) the starkly conservative “Bible Belt” ethos of the surrounding Deep South region.  

No less a commentator than Gabriel Garcia Marquez has written what most locals have always known: New Orleans is the “northern-most point of the Caribbean.” This Latin inheritance proudly resists to this day, offering no apologies to the surrounding hidebound – and hypocritical – religiosity of the neighboring regions.  



The ubiquitous plastic beads, awarded to revelers from the floats and stages in the city’s streets, are worn as a badges of honor by the revelers; decorations denoting dedication to the festival. The more the better.  

The gringos may not have the same “ginga no pé“, (few situations are quite as awkward as watching a typical Americans try to Sambar) as their Brazilian counterparts, but this does not prevent them from enjoying their own music driven bacchanal. Dixieland jazz substitutes Samba as the sound track to this organized mayhem. The gravelly voice of Louis Armstrong intoning “The Saints Go Marching In” is as important to this street celebration as any Brazilian Marchinha is to Carnaval.

While the general tone of the event might seem conservative by the standards of the Brazilian celebration (substantially more clothing seems to be worn, no five day national holiday, etc.), the partying is still taken very seriously. So listen to some great jazz, enjoy the spicy Creole cuisine and…

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Author: Paul Connolly

Experienced interpreter /translator, 30 years working in English & Portuguese. Extensive work in both US and Brazilian organizations equips me with a sound knowledge of the “real world” vocabulary of business, finance, taxation, IT, industrial and legal matters. Native American English acquired through upbringing, education and business experience in the United States. Profound knowledge of Brazilian Portuguese, culture and business, acquired through 34 years living in Brazil. Recent Clients: U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Brazil Finance Minister Guido Mantega , United Nations Development Programme, w/ the Ministry of the Environment, Presentation to Boards of Directors of Postal Bank of Tanzania and CRDB Bank, Guilherme Afif Domingos, Minster of Small Businesses, Luiz Barreto, President, SEBRAE, Vice-President of Brazil Michel Temer, Tourism Minister Gastão Vieira, S. Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. 2013 IMF / World Bank / G-20 Spring Meetings, Takanobu Ito – CEO, Honda Motors