Toronto’s first Caribbean Carnival queen passes the tradition on

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A report by Brooke Taylor for Toronto’s Metro.

Since that day, Hyacinth Noreiga involved herself in the carnival by making costumes for different bands and now she’s passed the tradition on to her daughters.

Hyacinth Noreiga and her family have deep roots in Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival.

The family tradition started years ago, when Noreiga lived in Trinidad and went to carnival there each year with her father and siblings.

“My dad just drove all eight of us down to the main city, and we all went every single year,” said Noreiga.

Noreiga didn’t get to participate much in Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival. It’s hard to afford costumes for everyone in a family of eight kids. However, she was able to buy her own for her last few years in Trinidad.

Then, in 1967, a year after she moved to Canada, Toronto hosted its very first carnival. Noreiga was crowned queen.

Noreiga was proud that Canada’s 100th birthday celebrations included Trinidadian culture.

“When they asked me to wear the queen costume, I was doubly proud,” she said.

The costume came from that year’s Trinidad and Tobago carnival and had been worn by the queen there.

“I remember people coming out from the stores because they could hear the music, and they came out of the stores onto the sidewalk to marvel at this spectacle of music and costumes,” said Noreiga.

 

Noreiga's dress was from that year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

Noreiga’s dress was from that year’s Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

Since that day, Noreiga involved herself in the carnival by making costumes for different bands. She’s slowed down now, at 73 years old, but her two daughters have picked up the tradition.

Noreiga’s eldest daughter, Natasha, lives in Los Angeles but still comes to Toronto every year. She’s already returned to help one of the mas bands and will fly in next week to participate.

Noreiga describes Natasha as a “carnival baby.” She’s been involved since she was five, while younger daughter Janeen has attended since age three.

“I was dragging them downtown and making costumes for them,” said Noreiga. Janeen now makes costumes for one of the mas camps.

Noreiga said the biggest change between the earlycarnivals and the event today is the size and scope.

“It is absolutely massive,” she said, adding that the costumes are also different. The outfits now have less fabric and more feathers. “Even Trinidad is into the beads and the feathers and whatever.”

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