February 09, 2004

Merciless Irony

A huge carnival float with the effigy of US President George Bush, center, balancing French President Jacques Chirac with a UN flag on his finger, British Premier Tony Blair left, and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi goes through the streets during the annual carnival parade in Viareggio, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004. (AP Photo/ Riccardo Dalle Luche)

Pretty much sums up what the good folks of Viareggio think of Chirac and the UN.

Viareggio is a small, but beautiful town on the west coast of Italy, primarily known as the premier luxury boat building port in the Mediterranean, if not the world. Power boat enthusiasts know Viareggio as the home of the elegant, super-fast Riva.

The Viareggio Carnevale was established in 1873 when some of the local "signori" decided to organize a a little different Lenten carnival, by inventing a procession of decorated floats which travelled up and down the main street of the city. On that occasion a masked protest was also organized by a number of citizens, as they were forced to pay too many taxes. In subsequent years the idea took hold to mount allegorical puppets on the floats. There are two schools of thought among float builders: the romantics (illustrators of legendary stories, humor and beauty) and the verists (imbued with ironic social-political messages and content, sometimes denouncing the system, or mocking the status quo).

The Viareggio Carnevale is an event attracting throngs from all over the world and is one hell of a party. The political floats are seen as a reflection of public sentiment and the themes are well noted by politicans and the European press.

Note: As you may know, Italians traditionally do not raise their middle finger as a rude gesture, but it is well known and I would speculate given the tone of this procession, a gesture selected to send a clear message to France and America.

Posted by feste at February 9, 2004 08:53 AM | TrackBack
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