Young girl jubilant Jacmel Carnival parade
Carnival season is off to a great start in Jacmel with the first of four Sunday parades taking place on January 16. Photo by Roland Philemon

JACMEL — Dancers’ brilliantly colored skirts swished as they paraded in Jacmel with the constant rat-a-tat-tatting of a snare drum and rhythmic blare of horns. Jubilant crowds, cheering and clapping, opened the festive Carnival season last month in Haiti.

The Jan. 16 parade in Jacmel marked the first of four Kanaval processions in the runup to the Lenten season. Just 60 miles northeast is Port-au-Prince, where Haiti’s National Carnival is canceled this year due to economic, security and health issues. All of the crowd’s favorites in Jacmel — bands, costumed groups and individual characters — made appearances, including revelers donning the much-revered, distinctive papier-mâché, for which the seaside town is renowned. 

Papier-mâché —it’s the identity of the Carnival," said Edel Bayonne, a resident of Jacmel and long-time parade goer.

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J.O. Haselhoef is the author of “Give & Take: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti.” She co-founded "Yonn Ede Lot" (One Helping Another), a nonprofit that partnered with volunteer groups in La Montagne ("Lamontay"), Haiti from 2007-2013. She writes and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.