If you’ve never heard of Mashramani or Guyana, then you need to put this celebration and this country on your radar especially during the carnival season. Typically, when people think of Carnival, they think of Brazil, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, and other places, but there is a lesser-known but no less thrilling and exciting cultural celebration that takes place all over Guyana called Mashramani.
Mashramani also referred to popularly as “Mash,” is an annual cultural festival celebrating Guyana’s independence in 1966. The holiday was later changed to coincide with the day Guyana became a republic February 23, 1970. Since then, Mash falls on February 23 – Guyanese Republic Day. The celebration usually includes a parade, cooking, music, games, traditional dances, and in recent years the Mash festival runs for the full 24-hours of February 23 starting with “Jouvert”, the official start of carnival launching at midnight and borrowed from the carnival tradition in Trinidad, a sunrise party that typical starts around 4 a.m. until the parade begins at 1 p.m., then there are evening parties from the conclusion of the parade into the wee hours of the next morning. Celebrations continue throughout the weekend in commemoration of the “birth of the republic.”
The word Mashramani derives from Amerindian (Arawak) origins and translates to mean “celebration of a job well done.” Mash is considered one of the most colorful festivals in Guyana and one that includes all the various ethnic groups of Guyana. Mash celebrations also include costume competitions, float parades, dancing in the streets, steel drums, calypso, soca, dancehall, and many other forms of music. The parade concludes in a national stadium where judges are waiting to make their assessments to crown the winners of best float, best theme, best costume, and more.
Given the size of Guyana, people travel for miles to the capital city, Georgetown, to be part of the large celebrations that take place in the streets all over the capital. In recent years, the administration of the celebration has fallen to the Guyanese Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Sport and is featured prominently on their calendar of events. Under the Ministry, broader programming around Mashramani takes place on regional and local levels and includes special church services, community clean-up campaigns, regional concerts, school debates and essay-writing competitions, sometimes a day of sport, and other programs.
Over the years major corporations have begun to sponsor the event making it larger and larger each year. In addition, each year the festival morphs a little bit more and adds different elements keeping it new and fresh and maintaining a positive air of anticipation and enjoyment for Mash participants. According to the Guyana Chronicle, a local Guyanese newspaper, the Guyana National Museum now has an exhibition tracing the history and showcasing artifacts of the festival. Mash has grown and internationalized so much that it will soon be on par with other famous festivals of the like. The theme for 2018 was “Let’s Cooperate and Celebrate Republic 48” and included a calendar of events that went on for 20 days prior to the celebration itself, making it a month-long celebration on some levels.
For the savvy traveler and the spendthrift, looking for a new adventure, look no further than Mash. Plan your trip to Guyana around Mash and leave enough time to take in the many wonders that Guyana has to offer. From Guyana’s culture to handicrafts and local products, eco-tourism, hospitality and much more you will not be disappointed. Guyana is rife with natural wonder and beauty including the Essequibo River, the largest river in Guyana. Guyana contains over 300 islands, one of which is larger than Barbados. Some of the islands are home to Dutch colonial forts, diverse bird species, and posh resorts where one can escape.
Another place you must include in your visit to Guyana is Kaieteur Falls, which sits in a section of the Amazon rainforest. Kaieteur Falls is the largest single drop waterfall in the world. From Georgetown, you can catch a 40-minute flight from the regional airport in town for about USD 200 per/person and make a day of it. To get the most bang for your buck, there are tours that combine the falls with a little island hopping.
Bottom Line: Get to Guyana and get your MASH on! I might just see you there!