OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis city awakens every February. Drums echo at dusk. We adorn the calles with flags and lights.

It is Carnaval.

It is a time in which I feel so very connected, and yet so separate from this land. I am welcomed, eagerly, to the celebrations, where we eat paella, or carne, or churros. The restaurants sell plates for a pittance, along with a drink. Musical groups, called chirigotas, sing songs, dress in drag, and poke fun at politicians.

Children bring drums to school to play during recreo. They will dress in costume and walk the streets, in a school parade.

The stores burst with wigs, makeup, the makings of mystery and fantasy.

And we wait for the parade, where the city is transformed. Elves, acrobats, dragons, and comics. They take off their aprons and uniforms, and revel. They forget the economy, the headaches.

All is music and food and laughter.

And although I do not understand all the nuance, I am there. I soak it in. For a moment, I, too wear the mask.

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