surinenglish

THE BOTTOM LINE

Masquerading

The Plaza de la Constitución, with its famous Café Central, has always been a meeting point for respectable Malaga society: families with children in matching outfits, and heavily made-up ladies in their quite unnecessary furs. Now they sit sipping their coffees or their wine alongside more casually dressed but no less respectable northern European tourists, here to take in the atmosphere of Picasso's birthplace. It's an audience that would not appreciate a man in drag stripping down to a leather thong during a raunchy dance routine right in front of them. Except, that is, once a year.

Carnival time means that for a couple of weeks everyone can be something they're not, or for once be what they really are. They can bring out the fancy dress, hide behind masks and be naughty; they can commit all the sins in the book before Lent brings them back down to earth with a bang of sobriety. And the men who dress as women are allowed out of the seedy clubs to perform on the stage in the Plaza de la Constitución.

The drag queen gala is just one of numerous events staged during carnival celebrations which attract a varied audience of all ages, all out to enjoy the fun.

Even though Malaga's carnival festivities are much less important than its Holy Week or summer fair, there's something magical to see generations joining together, wearing outfits and watching spectacles that any other time of year would be considered silly or unsuitable.

Wearing fancy dress, which in Spanish is a 'disfraz' - the same word as 'disguise', or a mask during carnival time traditionally implies added confidence to do what would normally be frowned upon thanks to a level of anonymity.

Masquerading as something or someone you're not is all well and good within the carnival context, but a growing problem in this modern age of social media. From anonymous insults aimed at celebrities, to bullying among schoolchildren and the grooming of adolescents by adults posing as teenagers, the web provides a far more sinister opportunity to break rules thanks to a disguise.

However, for the sake of finishing this column on a fun, carnivalesque note, we'll avoid moving on to masked murderers and concentrate on those well-dressed families and fur-clad ladies letting their hair down once a year in front of drag queens in feathered headdresses and impossible platform boots and little else.

Next week the carnival masks can come off; let's hope we don't have to replace them with other less sparkly ones from the pharmacy.