A little more than a year ago, at least 800,000 people in Haiti’s capital, Port-Au-Prince, were killed when an earthquake decimated the city sending the Caribbean nation into further turmoil. In a continuing emergency situation, Haitians eschewed their annual Carnival celebration, focusing on the death wrought by the temblor.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Haiti, one year after the earthquake)
The event, which is taking place as Rio de Janiero’s Bacchanal opens; the first of the J’Ouevert parades welcome Carnival in Trinidad; and even New Orleans — also a sufferer of disaster — begins Mardi Gras, is actually happening in the shadows of destruction. On Sunday, revelers passed by empty, mangled buildings. The National Palace, now a collapsed hulk, sits on a street that was set up for costumed pedestrian bands participating in the celebration.
But Carnival in Haiti is markedly smaller, directly relating to the country’s struggle to right itself. Organizers had a budget of only 20 percent of what it had been previously. And Haitians disagree, considering what the country has been through, whether a Carnival should be held at all.
“I don’t see how we can be thinking about enjoying ourselves when we, the poor people are still living in misery, Sedio Laviolette, a tent city dweller, told the Miami Herald. “Any serious government wouldn’t even be thinking about carnival.” But Fred Francois said as music blasted in the Champs de Mars: “This is helping us. A lot of us are sad and frustrated. We need a release.’’
(More on TIME.com: See how one couple fell in love on a missionary trip to Haiti)