Las Vegas Locals Experience Caribbean Culture

Local Las Vegans were invited to the Arts District Downtown Las Vegas to experience the Carribean Carnival festival like Vegas has never seen before.

The Carribean Carnival consisted of a daybreak party called Jaboulay (J’ouvert or Jouvay) and a parade of the bands the next day. Event organizer, Kelly Ann Wilson and her team were born and raised on the island of Trinidad and believe that it is a great idea to share their culture with fellow Las Vegas locals. Whether a Carribean islander or not, everyone is welcome to enjoy the Carnival festivities right inside their own neighborhood. 

“It is something to look forward to for those who cannot travel back home for the actual Carnival festival and for those who may not know our culture.” Says organizer, Kelly Ann Wilson. “Interested Locals can also come and experience a taste of our Carribean culture.” 

J’ouvert is also known as, Jouvay a word that is derived from the French phrase “jour ouvert,” which means daybreak or morning. In traditional Caribbean cultures, the parade starts early in the morning and signals the start of the bacchanalia that is Carnival. So, essentially, it is a party from dawn to dusk. Jouvay is celebrated in many countries throughout the Caribbean. Traditionally, the celebration involves Soca and Calypso music bands, dancers and attendees following each band, parading through the streets. The festival starts well before dawn and peaks a few hours after sunrise.

The roots of Jouvert in Trinidad go back over 200 years to 1783, with the arrival of French plantation owners. The French never colonised Trinidad, however elements of their culture remain. Carnival was introduced to Trinidad during slavery. Slaves were not allowed to attend the masquerade balls of the French so they would stage their own version of carnival in their backyards using their own rituals and folklore. They practiced imitating and sometimes mocking their masters’ behavior at the masquerade balls.

The origins of street parties associated with J’ouvert coincide with the emancipation from slavery in 1838. Emancipation gave Africans the opportunity to not only participate in Carnival, but to embrace it as an expression of their newfound freedom. 

The traditions of J’ouvert vary widely throughout the Caribbean. In Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada, a part of the tradition involves smearing paint, powder, mud or oil on the bodies of participants known as “Jab Jabs”. This is called playing mud. 

“Jaboulay is an expression of freedom. Pick up the paint, hop on the dance floor, be free and release.” Says organizer, Kelly Ann Wilson. “Jaboulay is a taste of home that we are trying to keep and stay true to. If you’re coming out and you want to have true, nice, clean fun with great music and culture. J’ouvert is where to be!”

J’ouvert or Jouvay is at the heart of Trinidad carnival, and is also celebrated in other Eastern Caribbean islands. The Las Vegas Caribbean weekend was just a taste of the actual events that take place in their homelands. It is the hope of many Las Vegas islanders that their culture will and become more known in the Vegas areas.

Please share your comments about J’ouvert in the comment section below.

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