Author: Stephen Weir | Date: 23 May 2019
On Grand Cayman Island the sea turtle's best friend is once again Tribal Carnival! The Toronto based Mas band was in Cayman on May 4th to supply costumes and take part in the 36th annual turtle friendly Batabano Carnival parade.
"We won band of the year for the second year in a row, "said Tribal Carnival’s Celena Seusahai. "Cayman was phenomenal!! This was and is our year."
The Cayman Company newspaper estimated that Tribal Carnival, "doubled in size for 2019, with more than 500 masqueraders in their band for Saturday." Caymanians, cruise ship tourists and die-hard mas men and women who jetted in from Canada to play mas down the road.
" My dad has (Dexter Seusahai) been involved in growing Batabano for over 15 years," continued Selena Seusahai."This is Tribal's fifth year as a band in Cayman and my third year going down there. We had 500 masqueraders on the road and I brought down 113 people from Toronto to play mas on our new Travel with Tribal initiative. We see a few familiar faces from time-to-time coming to Toronto from Cayman to play mas. This year our entire Cayman committee will be coming up to experience Tribal in Toronto."
Unlike other Caribbean and North American Carnivals, which base their celebration on Emancipation, Lent or other Christian calendar events, Batabano is all about the turtle!
Established in 1983 by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, Cayman Carnival Batabano is the National Carnival of the Cayman Islands. It is a salute to Cayman’s turtling heritage; "Batabano" is the native name for tracks left in the sand when sea turtles go ashore to nest! Batabano is symbolically held the first weekend in May as part of the celebration and awareness of the start of Turtle Nesting Season on the three-island British colony.
Many of the costumes worn by the estimated 4,000 revelers were made by Tribal Carnival, and look similar to what is worn in Canada, the US and Caribbean. Feathers and sexy tops and bottoms. There are also dancers in turtle and blue iguana costumes (another much loved Cayman reptile).
Batabano 2019 on May 4th was one of the biggest parades in the history of carnival in the Cayman Islands, with 15 mas bands and groups, and thousands of masqueraders on the four-mile route. The parade takes revelers from the historic Seven Mile Beach to downtown George Town. Most of the 30,000 residents and thousands of tourists lined the barrier free route to cheer on paraders
Next year, Batabano is merging with a second Cayman parade and Festival CayMAS. Last week the government decried that the two events must be held on the same day!
"My opinion on Batabano? It is like the majority of parades around the world -- there is room for improvement," commented Celena. "But in terms of vibes that is something Batabano definitely does not lack. It is great that we don't really see stormers in Cayman. All the fans are watching from the sidewalk."
Tribal is a lock on returning to Cayman next spring. In the meantime Tribal, like the 8 other competing bands has opened their Mas Camp and are busy, selling, making and delivering costumes. "Our Toronto store is located at 3401 McNicoll Ave Unit 8 and we are open for business,” continued Celena. "We will have our Monday Wear White boat ride coming up as well as the Kiddies Launch and the rest of the Carnival events.