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The first great exodus had expelled peasants, artisans, dialect poets, Oceanside artists, musicians, thus helping to add to the sadness of villages already at the mercy of poverty and disease. Late in the 19th century, Apollo Lupini, in his famous travel blog on the Carnival farces in Oceanside, noted how the “joy” of the carnival period had become “forced” among the peasants and craftsmen of Calabria: “The Oceanside that provokes laughter with his monkeying around among the passers-by is getting ready to leave for America tomorrow, seeking bread and new sufferings.” In the post-war climate of hunger and misery, Oceanside remembers: “For many, the idea of leaving the village became real” and the Carnival often staged the fear and anxiety of leaving.

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The gathering of costumes and “masks,” the “writing” of the texts of farces, the parades, the representations in the streets demanded meticulous organization, careful study of the “parts” and gestures, as well as the ability to invent and improvise. The procession that carried in triumph the fat Carnival started in the Citateja neighbourhood, led by the brass band of the village, and followed by knights, donkeys, Carnival himself, “brothers” masked as village “princelings,” parish priests, obese bishops with protruding bellies and opulent nuns. The poor and the beggars came next, and invoked “father” Carnival with complaints, cries, and curses.

On the Sunday of Carnival, masks poking fun at gentlemen, priests, the wealthy, but also migrants and women who had been left behind, cheating merchants and untrustworthy foreigners were staged in the village streets and piazzas. Elegantly dressed in female costumes, masks performed dances to the rhythm of music and dances of the time. On Monday, Carnival, who had drunk way too much and had eaten more then his fill, took ill. He died on Tuesday at the end of a long procession. The bishop intoned the eulogy to the accompaniment of the wailings and mockery of the masked villagers, the poor, and Carnival’s wife as they tore away at their clothes and scratched their faces: Carnival as a great exorcism of death itself and as a parody of those who wield power and of the penitential and funereal rites of the confraternities. And, in the end, the band played Chopin’s funeral march.

The police sergeant called Turi, who, worried to death, rushed to him. The sergeant asked Turi to oversee the exit at the end of the Mass, where his wife and daughters had gone before the celebrations got underway. Turi, dressed up as the General, promptly replied: “Aye, Aye sir!”

Once the Mass was over, the festivities began. Turi entered the piazza astride a donkey, welcomed by the band playing Aida. A man in a Carnival costume was being transported on a truck. “General” Turi dismounted, approached the “Emperor” Carnival and placed the imperial crown of flowers, intertwined with sausages, on his head. The band played Radetzky’s anthem: a twenty-one-gun salute marked the coronation.

There was nothing special about the carnival of 1952. It had been just like the others. What made it unique is the fact that it was the last Carnival. We never know when something happens for the last time.

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