• (868).628.8650

History of Mas

 

Emancipation and Carnival, A Historical Perspective

“I wish, Bagley, you had been here in the time of the Carnival; you have no idea of the gaiety of the place during the season. Ovid’s Metamorphoses were nothing compared to the changes that took place in persons of the Catholics of Trinidad. High and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all found masking suits for the Carnival.”

Letter of Major W-------
Trinidad, 4th May, 1827
The Son of a Military Officer. Four Years Residence in the West Indies During The Years 1826, 7, 8 and 9. London, August 18, 1831. Chapter XXV.

This foreign officer’s recount of the Carnival in pre-emancipation Trinidad could very well be that of any modern day spectator.

Trinidad Carnival today is a one of the world’s most fascinating festivals and its rather humble yet fascinating beginnings two hundred years ago, have today led to the highly publicized national festival that has earned Trinidad’s Carnival the reputation of The Greatest Show on Earth.

The seeds of this annual spectacle were first sown by the French settlers who arrived on the invitation of the King of Spain in 1783.

The Cedula of Population which was issued by the Spanish Crown extended benefits of land to the French settlers who were enticed with offers of free acreages to cultivate and develop.

This attractive offer encouraged an influx in the years immediately following 1783 of French settlers from the islands of Grenada, St. Lucia and Martinique.

For half a century, they developed the Carnival: a season of gay and elegant festivals extending from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. In addition to dinners, balls and fêtes champêtres, leading members of society, in disguise would drive about the streets in their carriages, and in the evenings would visit the houses of their friends which were thrown open for the occasion.