No one seems to know who they actually are. Nor can anyone speculate when they will appear except on New Year’s Day. They are the Maskarada, a semi-secretive performance group with its roots steeped in island lore.
I have scored on an invitation to join the Lt. Governor and others at her comfortable Ocean Breeze home. By 10 in the morning the masked players gather to dance and frolic. There are a dozen dancers with harlequinesque costumes, paper mache crowns and painted masks made of fine mesh.
and at last, a hybrid—part bull and part matador who continually attempts to gore something. These characters speak mostly in primitive grunts and shouts. The only intelligible words that I catch now and then are Bon Aña, Happy New Year.
The dancers are accompanied by a small band of musicians. There are dueling accordions, a pair of kuarters– 4-stringed guitars from Venezuela, and a ukulele. Two metals instruments called chapinan and a single drum supply the beat. It is believed that the music has its roots in old Spanish songs, perhaps brought over by the Spaniards who came to Bonaire in the 1600s. To me, it sounds simply like musika krioyo, the local music of Bonaire.
The Lt. Governor presents a bottle of white rum to the Maskarada, which is immediately poured into plastic cups of orange juice for immediate consumption. Yes, it is early, but the Maskarada players are heavily weighted down with their thick costumes. They need to beat the heat. Then the fun starts. The matador/bull mongrel starts chasing the shark. This unlikely hunt goes on for a hilarious minute before the fisherman in Helen joins the fray. The crowd roars with laughter as the shark is finally reeled in. The band plays on. The oversexed donkey does its gyrations to nobody in particular. The leader of the band makes authentic donkey sounds between sending text messages. It is priceless.
The morning grows old and Maskarada starts to pack up. The group will head off for another performances somewhere around the island. This will go on all day as long as the rum flows. Prospero Aña Nobo. Have a prosperous New Year.