MONTEVIDEO – Members of the Don Timoteo troupe, created by soccer star Alvaro “Chino” Recoba, say that comradeship and participating in Uruguay’s Carnival are more important than retaining the title of champions they earned in this South American country’s month-long revelry.
“We see the contest with a different approach: the ‘murga’ seeks, first, to provide entertainment and to reach all audiences,” troupe member Martin Grandal told Efe. “Winning is a major thing, but that is not the goal.”
Last year, Don Timoteo scored 1,524 points in the “murgas” category, the fifth time a troupe with that name won the Uruguayan Carnival contest.
“Victory was divine, a great joy to share with friends,” said Maximiliano Mendez, another of the group’s members, adding that “if we had not won, the joy would not have been diminished.”
A total of 17 troupes participate in the highly competitive “murgas” category of the Uruguayan carnival, considered the longest in the world, and only one will take the prize.
“There is a whole side of this that we keep at a distance and we try to have fun,” said the group’s coordinator, Diego Bello. “Carnival is about merrymaking and we must take it for what it is.”
Makeup and the “mate” infusion fill the improvised dressing room that Don Timoteo has established at the modest Repecho soccer club, which serves as the headquarters for rehearsals, and where murga members gather in the hours prior to their performance around “tablados,” or temporary stages built in different Montevideo neighborhoods.
The vibe is mostly masculine and relaxed, more akin to that of a soccer team than to a folk music group, but it fits into the small South American nation, where a carnival troupe’s followers can be compared to soccer teams’ fans.
Carnival performances draw audiences “similar to soccer games during league matches,” and who crowd around the tablados and fill the beachside Summer Theater.
Mendez admitted, though, that Don Timoteo members were not burdened by fame like soccer players, and, with a laugh, he said that despite his success on stage, no one recognizes him in the streets.
As they put the final touches on their makeup, Don Timoteo members tune their voices and disguise themselves with a mix of circus characters and Venetian carnival masks.
Face paint may run off in the heat of performances, but Don Timoteo members said that was not important since what mattered was to enjoy the fruits of months of preparation on stage.