Cuba Carnival 2009

It was Cuba Carnival this weekend, you see—when I got the job in November I told everyone via Facebook status update that I would be back in time for it. After my beautiful friend Angela left for the airport and I was walking down to the Hataitai bus stop I thought about that, and about the carnival two years ago and how everything changes and stays the same and so on and so forth, and then I met up with Alice and with my friend David’s friend Charlotte, and then the first thing we saw on Manners Mall after David went off to his fancy-pants Press Pass meeting was this:

Lead Singer Of The Pants Band

This is the leader of what we came to refer to as The Pants Band.

The Band Of Pants

See how they all have on different colors of pants? Delightful, no? All these kids were about fifteen years old and totally rocking out, wearing their pants with what can only be described as the unmitigated joy of living, making me wish that we’d had those sort of fifteen-year-old boys at my high school.

We wandered around for a while, as you do, looking at various things. I’d been hanging out at home for most of the afternoon so I didn’t get to see some of the bands and street art like last year, but there was still some good stuff.

Late Afternoon Ferris Wheel

CityStop Hairstyle

Street Dancing

I bought a new work skirt at a street vendor and then Charlotte bought a skirt too, with which she was very happy and in which she looked smashing.

Charlotte's Shopping Success

Alice, however, was not so lucky, and ended up having to be talked out of getting this cute hoodie.

Alice Pouts

Soon it was time to rock over to where the parade was going to be. Somehow we ended up getting pretty good spots right at the front, although I was stuck behind two big security guards who kept getting in my pictures, much to my dismay. However there were some identically-facepainted volunteers to talk to you and get flowers from while we shivered and waited, so that was all right.

Scooter Flower-Giver

Cuba Carnival Middle Distance

FINALLY the parade began, and I was happy to see some bellydancers right off the bat.

Bellydance Beauties

I don’t know if you can see it, but the beautiful and talented Traysi is balancing a sword on her head here. Good show, what?

Pacific Dancers

Here we have some lovely coconut-bra wearing Pacific dancers, with an extra special shot of the camera of the guy standing next to me just for fun.

Pacific Groove

I thought this kid was fabulous.

And speaking of fabulous:

Fa'afafine Fabulous

I don’t understand why, everytime there’s ever anything—Sevens, Santa Parade, whatever– the Stormtroopers are always there. Does the Wellington City Council just have a list of people with Star Wars costumes, and like whenever there’s a parade they just ring them all up and tell them to suit up?

Those Storm Troopers ALWAYS Show Up

I was pleased to see, however, that roller derby has come at last to Wellington, and made quite a good showing in the parade. Only my complete inability to take pictures with my camera prevented me from documenting these girls more fully—we were standing at a corner and most of the floats would have to wait right in front of us and so the derby girls used that time to zoom around making scary faces and lay down in the street and jump over each other real fast.

Rolley Derby Duet

Wellington Circus Trust was there, of course, hanging from a hoop, which in turn was hanging from a . Always happy to see them.

Hoop Dangler

And I just happen to like this picture of the Queen Mum on the decks, courtesy of the Go!Wellington party bus, which, incidentally, had disco balls inside it and made me wish more public transport would look into that sort of decoration scheme.

Queen Mum On The Decks

There were a lot of samba-y, salsa-y type groups that came grooving down the street with their sassy percussion and suggestive dance moves, but none of them had hats quite like these.

Some More Excellent Hats

And this is sort of apropos of nothing but I think that this was my favorite thing I saw all evening, this stilt-walking praying mantis—which is pretty astounding when you consider that there was a colossal squid float from Te Papa.

Mantis Stiltwalker

It’s pretty blurry, but there it is, with its correct number and length of arms. For some reason I cannot justify, I have yet to see the colossal squid exhibit at Te Papa, and I’ve been in town a whole month now. Maybe Saturday after my haircut and before my barbecue? I will report back. Anyway, it was a very nice glow-in-the-dark squid float.


Originally I wasn’t sure if this was a spaceship or a submarine, because it was right in front of the aforementioned squid float, and I thought maybe it was some sort of Alvin thing going on, but according to the Dom Post it is in fact a spaceship. It was suspended from a crane, just like the trapeze artist, and the guy inside was all DJing and lip syncing and generally rocking out. Everyone freaked out when it came down the road.

Spaceship Or Submarine?

Everyone’s favorite thing, though, is always and forever Batucada. It was interesting to me how so many of the floats and groups were Latin American or Spanish-speaking, when I don’t think of Wellington as particularly Latino, demographically–not compared to Miami, at least.


I didn’t get any decent pictures of the dancers, sadly, but I did get a good long look at the goldfish hats the band was wearing.

Samba Singers With Fish Hats In Background

Fish Hats In Unison

Man I loved those goldfish hats. They would all turn their heads in unison and it just looked so great and between the hats and the scantily-dressed dancers and the fantastic beats it was a very good time indeed, even though we were all pretty cold by that time and all our feet hurt a lot.

When the parade was over we put on some more clothes and walked around the streets for a while longer, getting hot chocolates and cakes at Midnight Espresso and listening to various bands and looking at various people for a while, but none of us were really up for a very late night. I was done around 1:00. For me it was enough to giggle at people dancing in the streets and to listen to live music and to just bask in that vibe that Wellington has sometimes, when everyone is out and loving their city, owning their city, really living in their city.

Our city.

Go Wellington


  1. Nice :) Actually, my meeting wasn’t very fancy pants. But I did get a pink arm band. More kindof fancy wrist.

  2. But what was wrong with the hoodie? Why did she have to be talked out of it? I love hoodies!

  3. And here New Orleans is thinking they’re all cool this week with Mardi Gras. They ain’t got NOTHIN’ on your town!!
    Any town who brings the Storm Troopers all the time should be named Awesometown.

  4. That outfit I got two years ago? I get so many complements every time I wear it, and people always want to know where I got it. Which of course gives me the opportunity to go on and *on* about the Cuba Street Carnival and Wellington and how awesome it all is.

    I wish I could have been there this time.