When I think of Carnaval, I think of over-the-top costumes, of drunk people in the streets, of loud music and of professional dancers moving synchronously to the beat of booming drums. I think of Brazil's famous and chaotic version of the celebration. I think of overstimulation and of non-stop fun... which gets old.
Montevideo's version of Carnaval is wholly different. There is the parade, there are booming drums and there are dancers covered in glitter and ruffles and feathers. But instead of milling with drunk 20-somethings, you're perched next to a 5-year-old local child enthusiastically spraying silly string into the parade. You're standing next to a Uruguayan grandmother and her entire family as they cheer on a granddaughter, dancing in the street with her classmates.
It's a family affair. It's a local event, not a tourist-filled escapade. It's Las Llamadas, prounounced in the Uruguayan way: sha-mah-das, not ya-mah-das.
It's more lively than a parade in the States, but only just.
It feels wholly South American and perfectly Montevidean.
I'll be back tonight. But this time I'm reserving a seat on the bleachers because my feet are killing me.