EDITORIAL – A welcome reunion of Batabano and CayMAS

Last Saturday, West Bay Road was once again transformed into a riot of colour and sound as mas teams hit ‘de road’ for Batabano.

All together, thousands braved the midday heat and sun to participate in the beloved annual street parade.

The four-mile stretch from Public Beach to downtown George Town was animated by the irresistible beats of Soca and the sight of revellers decked out in vibrant costumes, dazzling jewels and beaming smiles. Spectators, including Governor Martyn Roper, lined the street to cheer them on, our own hearts leaping at the celebration of life, energy, music and joy.

It was an afternoon to remember – an unforgettable spectacle. Thanks are due to all who made it possible: the organisers of the main parade and its associated events and fetes, teams and jumpers, the costume designers who spent untold hours on their creations, the food vendors, entertainers and guests.

On Discovery Day weekend, mas players will again will don resplendent regalia and dance down West Bay Road as part of CayMAS Carnival. We look forward, too, to that celebration.

But by far the most exciting announcement this season has been that next year Batabano and CayMAS will be held on the same day, in one combined event.

Batabano and CayMAS will both be held on the second weekend of May next year. One after the other, they will follow the same parade route before branching off into separate parties, government has announced.

The reunion is a compromise forged by government and stakeholders. It is a welcome step towards unity that will greatly enhance the experience for locals, visitors and participants.

We hope organisers of both carnivalesque celebrations can put aside their differences, learn from each other and work together to make next year’s celebration the most exuberant Grand Cayman has ever seen.

The 2016 split between Batabano and CayMas has dampened the inclusive, welcoming spirit of the annual festivities. Two celebrations, separated by only a few days, is a lot to ask of our little island. Two similar events held in such close proximity to each other serves neither well, nor the sponsors, vendors or the general public.

In Batabano’s earlier years, back when it was launched by Rotary Club 1984 and even after Donna Myrie-Stephen and her committee took it over a few years later, critics sometimes complained that Carnival-type celebrations were not truly part of Cayman’s culture. They argued that Cayman’s take on the celebration was a loose adaptation of a regional tradition that had little meaning here.

However much that ‘newness’ or ‘foreignness’ may have mattered at the outset, there is no denying that Batabano and CayMAS have made indelible impressions on our island, as has Braccanal on Cayman Brac. Today, these relatively recent additions to our annual calendar are a valued part of our ever-changing cultural landscape.

We are glad to see that next year they again will be parading down the same path.