Contemporary Trinidad Carnival has three major divisions: pan, calypso, and masquerading – collectively, the music and the masks of carnival. Separating carnival masquerades from carnival music belies the reality of the event itself. But in an island in which "playing mas"1 has for many come to define a way of life, where to "play your mas" can mean to "do your thing," carnival masking has a mystique that both manifests and calls into question varying senses of identity and processes of cultural memory. Ultimately, the assimilation that is the lifeblood of the Caribbean – "part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part-Native-American but totally Caribbean" – is interwoven into the process through which the carnival masquerades of the "hoi polloi" have become the identifying signifier of a nation, transforming carnival into something that is neither European nor African nor Asian, but a unique Trinidadian spectacle newly created in this so-called "new world."2