Carnaval de Barranquilla - ¡Quien lo vive es quien lo goza! (Roughly translated: If you live it, you love it!)
There was so much to process that it's hard to even begin to explain! These crazy four days have been full of color, music, dancing, and new experiences!
Barranquilla claims the second largest Carnaval in the world, after Rio de Janeiro. No one is quite sure how or when it started, but it dates back at least to the 1800's. The celebrations last for four days before Ash Wednesday, and they are marked by parades, concerts, and elaborate costumes.
There are a handful of characters who have been replicated by people throughout the decades. Among these are the Marimondas (perhaps the most important symbol of the parade, with their iconic mouse-meets-elephant-meets-monkey look [although there are - ah - other interpretations to the long nose]), el Son de Negro, el Monocultivo, and la Negrita Puloy, among many others.
While the characters all appear to be meant in good fun, and the costumes are all steeped in tradition as well as the Carnaval spirit of exaggeration and impersonation, it was incredibly uncomfortable to watch the Sons de Negros and the Negritas Puloy, because the costumes essentially amount to blackface. I did some research on the tradition, and there are some sites that claim that they were originally created and celebrated by Afro-carribean peoples, particularly from San Basilio de Palenque, a town founded by people who escaped slavery. However, the wording on the site was a little unclear, and it seems more likely that they were created to make fun of these people, given that the exaggerated features and body movements are painfully similar to those of US minstrel shows of old. That being said, I am approaching this with the an American perspective, and American understandings of race, so it's possible that my reading of it is completely off. If anyone has more information about this, I would love to hear more!
You can read more about them here in English: http://carnivaldancesbarranquilla.blogspot.com.co/search?updated-max=2013-11-19T19:33:00-08:00&max-results=7&m=1
And in more detail In Spanish: http://www.carnavalesbarranquilla.com/p/disfraces-del-carnaval-de-barranquilla_15.html?m=1
Overall, Carnaval de Barranquilla is an incredibly unique and beautiful event, and I am so glad that I got to go!
Saturday, February 10th
After a two hour bus ride from Santa Marta, Emerique (a friend I met in Minca) and I arrived in Barranquilla, dumped our stuff at the hotel (yes, I got upgraded from a hostel!!), and headed out to the first big parade, la Batalla de Flores.
On the way there, I purchased a hat (which I rather regretted) and a can of espuma (which I did NOT regret!!) One of the many traditions of Carnaval is spraying espuma (foam) at each other, and the tent that we were under to watch the parade was QUITE a mess!
La Batalla de Flores was a gorgeous parade, filled with dancers and floats, as well as groups of important Colombian musicians. Unfortunately, our view was partially blocked by the tent, but we still got to see most of the people passing by!
*Cue long train of pictures, because I took too many.*
After the parade, we headed to meet some of Emerique's friends, and ate dinner at a small local restaurant - an event which quickly (d)evolved into a foam-spraying, flour-throwing dance party!
From there, it was off to a street party. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get in, but luckily barranquilleros know how to make the most of any situation, and the party and dancing simply spilled out onto a different street!
Sunday, February 11th
Today, I was a bit more prepared with my Carnaval *look,* thanks to a little glitter from Jess and Charlie. (Yep, they're back!)
We decided to skip the parade today, and instead headed straight to the street party - this time we got into the official one, and it was even more fun than the previous night! Andrea joined us, and we danced our way through the night!
(Note the newly purchased Carnaval shirt - I tried!)
Andrea had heard about a concert happening that night, so we decided to check it out!
There was electronic, folk, and reggae music, and we had a blast!
The most exciting part, however was when Damian Marley came on - Bob Marley's son!
We didn't make it home until after 5 AM... 😳
Monday, February 12th
After sleeping in, I headed to the Gran Parada de Comparsas parade with Jess - this time with better seats! (I ordered a ticket online... It was a whole thing.) The costumes are even more brilliant up close, and we even got a few pictures with the dancers!
Exhausted from the night before, we decided to take it easy that afternoon and went to go see a movie with Charlie.
Tuesday, February 13th
Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras for New Orlineans!) was probably my favorite day in Barranquilla. The parade Kate (another Minca friend), Jess, and I went to today had less of a shiny feel to it, with a grittier (and funnier!) presentation. The parade today was called, "Joselito se va con las cenizas."
According to the Internet, "Barranquilla ends its parade-centered festivities with the Joselito Carnaval. Supposedly a former city coach driver whose only day of rest fell on a Tuesday and who, one particularly Tuesday, drank himself to death, Joselito represents the joys of the carnival which, unfortunately like the life of Joselito, must come to an end."
This parade is celebrated by a series of skits, where Joselito has fun, dies, and is visited by many grieving women, who are usually men dressed up as brides, mothers, and whores.
Joselito is then followed by a grieving crowd, before stopping again to perform the skit for a fresh group of people.
Over the course of the parade, there are many variations on the skit, over and over again, and somehow each time got even more ridiculous! We were laughing the entire time!
There were lots of other characters too, including \240quite a few drag queens! In fact, the majority of men in the parade were dressed as women!
(Los sons de Negro that I mentioned before)
After the parade, we had a hankering for pancakes, so we dropped by the grocery store and celebrated pancake day/Mardi Gras in style!
Wednesday, February 14th
Ash Wedneaday/Valentine's Day, but for us, a slow day spent mostly at the mall before our 10pm night bus to Medellín...
...which didn't actually leave until 11:15!
Ah well, finally on the bus...