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Trinidad J'Ouvert: A delicious experience

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Cocoa Devils J'Ouvert: Three revellers 'Palancing down de road'. The two on either side are dressed as Black Cobos (John Crows).
J'Ouvert is for anyone, even these two children join in the fun.
The Cocoa Devils crew at Trinidad J'Ouvert. - Photos by Emma Sharp

Emma Sharp, Gleaner Writer

Setting one's alarm for 2:30 in the morning, on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, may seem a tad crazy to anyone who has not participated in Trinidad's J'Ouvert, but this part of the carnival festivities is not to be missed. There are numerous J'Ouvert bands in Port-of-Spain and each has a regular following of locals. The more well-known ones such as 3Canal, Red Ants and Cocoa Devils, also pull the many foreigners who visit Trinidad and Tobago at this time of year.

Cocoa Devils drew my attention three years ago and I had so much fun that I decided to relive what had been one of the best experiences in my life.

Revellers started gathering well before we arrived at the Cocoa Devils' meeting place, some of whom had come straight from other parties around town, rather than their beds. As my posse and I turned out of the Woodbrook area towards MovieTown (the assembly point), we were faced with a sea of red lights bobbing in the darkness. Part of the costume, given to each 'Cocoa Crew', was a pair of red devil horns that lit up once they were turned on. Of course, the effect of a few flashing head bands at home was rather disappointing, but when seen among hundreds, and possibly thousands, it was quite spectacular! The rest of the 'get up' included horns, whistles, rags for waving, bandanas and red T-shirts all sponsored by Digicel.

The main, and distinct, part of the Cocoa Devils' costume is always a generous lathering of cocoa mixed with oil. Upon arrival, rippled muscles covered in chocolate approached with buckets of the sweet smelling concoction, spreading a thick layer all over my legs, arms, neck and face. I wasn't sure where I'd start, but I wanted to eat them up! The rippled muscles that is!

All-inclusive bars

By four o'clock, the music trucks, blaring the new soca tunes, were pulling out of the parking lot. All-inclusive bars were also on wheels, as was a steel band, which travelled at the front for the duration. Although each J'Ouvert band has a particular route, some cross paths several times. As a result, many of us ended up with different colour paints, which are commonly used, speckled over the chocolate.

It's difficult to qualify, let alone explain, why this part of carnival is my favourite, but perhaps it's got something to do with a child-like fantasy of smearing oneself with mud and dancing around the streets without a care in the world. Sure, people get inebriated, and 'gatecrashers' attempt to join in, but there is a team of security which keeps everyone from danger, including falling into ditches on the roadside. The delicious beauty of the whole experience is that not one person, including spectators, stood still.

Read Emma's take on the Trinidad Carnival road march in tomorrow's