Carnaval de Loulé, Oldest Carnival in Portugal

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One of the many floats at the 2013 Loulé Carnival

Carnaval de Loulé, Oldest Carnival in Portugal

Stuart Profile Small Carnaval de Loulé, Oldest Carnival in PortugalThe best travel experiences are often those you stumble into. Last week in the Algarve we stumbled into the Loulé Carnival, one of the oldest carnivals in Portugal. But while the tradition may be old, the 2013 theme was current, and something of an education in Portuguese politics, satire and the ability to party in the face of austerity. So what does an Algarve Carnival look like? Well let me show you….

The great farce

The 2013 Loulé Carnival theme was “Entroikados – the Great Farce” providing plenty of scope for comment on current Portugese economic, political and social predicaments. Not that you’d know it from the cheerful welcoming clown at the Carnival entrance.

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Welcome to the Loulé Carnival in Portugal’s Algarve

An austerity carnival

Apparently the budget for this year’s carnival was cut by €50,000 as part of local belt tightening, but it didn’t seem to have dampened the party spirit or the quality of floats, puppets, performers or costumes in the traditional parade.  Maybe the carnival cuts were creative inspiration for the satirists who designed many of the floats poking fun at the country’s economic situation. The squeeze on the ‘man on the street’ was a common theme, literally portrayed by some as the rich squeezing every last euro out of the ordinary Joe.

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At the Loulé Carnival 2013 the rich are squeezing money out of the man on the street.

Some floats were even more overtly political, pointing fingers at home and beyond, like on this float ’The Puppet of Europe’ depicting the Portugese Finance Minister (who looks uncannily like Mr Bean) acting as pupeteer as he pulls the strings of the everyday man, surrounded by cowboys while overlooked by Angela Merkel. You don’t need to understand Portuguese to get the message.

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“The Puppet of Europe” – One of the satirical floats in the Loulé Carnival

But it wasn’t all class struggle and political statements.  Some took other topical themes, like this cops and robbers scene which turns out to be parodying a long running case involving the imprisonment of a former president of a Portuguese football club on corruption charges. Who said sport wasn’t political?

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Former president of Benfica football club Vale e Azevedo gets some Loulé Carnival treatment

More than just politics..

Fortunately there were also some less political and easier to understand floats, featuring samba schools, gigantones (giant puppets), cabeçudos (papier mache figures with great big heads) and of course people with colourful feathered headdresses.

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One of the more traditional floats at the 2013 Loulé Carnival

But it’s people that make carnival

Of course carnival is not about  floats, it’s about people. People make carnival. The people who drive the floats…

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Driving the floats may not be the most interesting job

And the people who watch the floats…  from the balconies along the procession route…..

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Watching the carnival from the balcony

And from the cafes along the street….

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Watching carnival from the doorway of the cafe

And people make music

You can’t have a carnival without music…  whether it’s a local brass band….

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A local brass band in the procession at Loulé Carnival

Or a group of local Elvis impersonators on percussion

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Elvis boys  doing their stuff at the Loulé carnival

Although there’s no guarantee it will be to everyone’s taste…

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The music can be too much for some

And where there’s music there’s dancing

And of course where there is music there is dancing. Of course there has to be samba..

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Samba at Loulé Carnival Algarve

But of course it doesn’t HAVE to be samba….

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Dancing at Loulé Carnival Algarve

And it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, you can join in…

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Old Lady and young child at Carnival

Carnival for kids

It’s not just the adults who enjoy the dressing up, most of the kids do too, whether as part of a float…..

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Kids dressed as clowns in the Loulé Carnival Algarve

Or just to watch…

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Kids at Carnival

Clowning around

There’s a lot of clowning around at this carnival and not just with the political satire. There are clowns amongst the onlookers….

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Boy watching the carnival procession

Clowns in the parade…

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Clowns at the Loulé Carnival

And clowns in need of  break…

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Clown taking a break at the Loulé Carnival, Algarve

To see and hear a little more, check out this little clip from YouTube.

 

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4 Responses to “Carnaval de Loulé, Oldest Carnival in Portugal” Subscribe

  1. Melanie Murrish February 18, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    My in-laws live in Santa Barbara de Nexe not far from Loule; this is making me nostalgic!

    • Stuart February 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

      Have you visited at carnival time? We were lucky to kind of bump into it!

  2. Fiona February 19, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Love the satirical and current themes of the carnival. It’s very refreshing to see the traditional and the new mixing together like this. I’m definitely getting itchy feet reading this – time for a spot of holiday planning I think. Brilliant pictures by the way.

    • Stuart February 19, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      Yes it was a very curious cocktail of tradition and political satire. I’m sure if we’d done our Portuguese homework we’d have understood a lot more! A great photo opportunity too.

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