I describe here, a trip by city residents to a town of 500 people for a carnival celebration. Nicole’s father grew up in this small town and the whole family was returning for the celebration. As I met Nicole and her boyfriend at the corner between our nearby apartment buildings she was already filming with her brother’s GoPro camera.
Nicole’s boyfriend Martin and I had decided to come along just the day before, and all of the hostels in the town were booked. So, when the three of us drove into town in Martin's Jeep, we immediately set about looking for a camping spot. We found one next to a small building labeled as the city’s Social Sport Club. We set up the tents as the sun was setting and ate some rice with tuna. After cleaning up the food we walked to the center of town.
Though the permanent population is only 550, there were several thousand people in the town that night. Like Nicole and her father, many people who grew up there or have family connections return for carnival. In this town, carnival takes the form of a rivalry between los Rojos and los Verdes (the Reds and the Greens). The town is filled with triangular banners, red and green on different streets depending on the residents’ loyalties. The only explanation I was given about the different groups is that it is a rivalry to see who has the best party, the best band, the best food, and the best dancing. “I have no idea how it started,” most people told me. What strikes me as interesting however, is that in describing this rivalry, people use he word ‘pelea’ (fight) rather than ‘competencia’ (competition). Nicole told me that some times individuals from opposing groups will get into fights, but this is not necessarily condoned. Indeed, mischief rather than violence, was the overwhelming theme of the event. Silly string, shaving cream, confetti, and colored powder were constantly being sprayed or rubbed in people’s hair and faces. Yet this was within the Verdes group rather than between Verdes and Rojos.
In the Verdes’ party, there was a live band playing folk music to which everyone danced, and plenty of drinking. A few people wore Halloween-type costumes, but most people wore blue jeans and tshirts. By the end of the night, everyone was covered in silly string and colored powder.
A few days later, after we had returned to the city, Nicole, Martin, and I all posted our photos on Facebook. Most were taken while at the party focusing on people drinking, dancing, or covered in powder and confetti. Two very short videos Nicole took on her cell phone also showed the event as full of people dancing, yelling, waving flags, and throwing powder. Nicole’s family also tagged her in several photos. These all seemed to capture the experience I had somewhat accurately. Certain aspects were missing, such as the stack of empty beer bottles on the table, and the delicious rabbit stew, but they were pictures of the party.
Nicole also edited her GoPro video and posted it to Youtube. Yet, this video focused far more on the trip itself. She begins by announcing to the camera “We are starting our adventure!” Set to a club remix of a pop song, the 5 minute video reminds me of a road trip montage sequence from some sort of teen movie. Desert mountains cruise by the passenger window. Images of the passengers getting out to stretch show more of the landscape. Then the video cuts to preparing and eating food at the camp site. Finally, around the 3 minute mark of the video we arrive at the carnival celebration. We enter the dance hall, where the celebration is just starting. About 15 people are dancing. There is no confetti or powder flying through the air. In fact, many people at the tables look bored. And the video fades out while each of us begins drinking a beer.
When I saw this the first time I was struck by how different the party looked through these two different media. Comments from friends made it even more clear how the two functioned in different ways. While comments on facebook photos were generally along the lines “what a great party!” comments on the video complimented the beauty of the scenery and the style of the video. It seemed that Facebook represented the place to show off the great party atmosphere of carnival while Youtube was a place for more artistic expression, focusing not only on the party, but the trip in general. Nicole confirmed in fact that she knew pictures on Facebook were more fun, but more temporal. They would disappear to the bottom of her wall in a few days, but the Youtube video would be something she would go back to and share with people in the future. She took time editing it to make it look more artistically beautiful, whereas with the fotos on Facebook, she simply loaded all that she had taken with her cellphone. Facebook was for the quick and easy. Youtube was for lasting memories.