viernes, 2 de marzo de 2012


Carnival.  Amplifiy Mardi Gras 10 fold (and take out the flashing!) and you might just be able to begin to understand what Carnival in Barranquilla is like!  Barranquilla has the second largest Carnival in South America, second only to the Carnival in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.  Carnival festivities can be found round the clock the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when Catholics begin to celebrate lent. (And that doesn’t include the weeks of pre- and post-carnival activities the lucky Peace Corps Volunteers living in Barranquilla have been enjoying). I arrived in Barranquilla on Friday night and by Monday, after surviving only half of carnival, I had to leave…I just can’t party like the Colombians!!

Friday night we went to a Cumbia circle. Cumbia is perhaps the most popular and well-known folk dance of Colombia.  It has its origins with the black slaves brought to Colombia, and at its origins was in fact a dance of courtship.  Over the years it has evolved from using just drums and claves to using more European instruments and musical characteristic.  It is by far my favorite Colombian dance!  Sadly, I didn’t take any video of cumbia, and the stuff I found on line isn’t great either, but check out this link to get the jist:

Colombians dancing Cumbia

All fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.

Vanessa, in the red dress is wearing the most typical Carnival costume.  It is of  'la negrita' or the little black lady.We all find it offensive, but race in this country is an interesting topic.  Check out her matching 'lad negrita' purse.

If you can balance something on your head, you're dancing
the Cumbia correctly!  In the original dance, women balanced
candles on their head, but more often than not
soda and beer bottles double for the candles!

WHITE FACE!  As if I needed to be any more white!  There's a carnival tradition of throwing a flour-like powder in people's face.

After dancing well into the wee hours of the morning, we all got up bright and early to go to the biggest parade of Carnival on Saturday morning: The battle of flowers.  We paid a little bit of money to get seats and be able to sit alongside the parade for the 5+hour extravaganza.

We arrived plenty early which allowed time for some pre-parade shenanigans...

The parade had plenty of live, I’m told very famous, musicians, dancing , and costumes galore.  Some of them fun and fanciful, some of them more offensive than anything!

He's famous.  Trust me.  I trusted the person sitting next to me...

Hitler.  This was the only offensive thing the crowd saw because several of them
started shouting, 'out! out!'
Bush and Osama Bin Laden walking down the road together...

Black face.  Much like 'la negrita' you can't go very far during Carnival without seeing a brown person
who has painted themselves black...and although we se it through offensive eyes, I have been told time and again
people dress up like this as a celebration of the afro-decendientes. 

Colombia is a country of ‘queens.’  Every brand, store, and city have a ‘queen.’ You walk down the street and the most common cat-call is My Queen!” So naturally there were dozens and dozens of queens to be seen. But I'll just leave you with a photo of the overall Carnival Queen.

After the parade, me and three friends had quite the evening.  Before the parade we were at a store buying some water and snacks, and this guy got in line behind us.  Turns out he was from the states and working on the production crew for Marc Anthony, the Carnival headlining show.  After a about a 25 minute conversation in line, lines in the country move very, very slowly, he offered us four free tickets to the show!  It was an incredible opportunity, and we gladly agreed.  When we got to the concert at night and met him for the tickets, we were in for even more of a shock: the seats we front row tickets with VIP backstage access!
The only person closer to the stage than me, was this police officer!

That's not me taking a picture of the jumbo-tron.  That's literally how close we were to the stage!
Political offices just turned over about a month ago and it turns out we were sitting next to the ex-mayor of Barranquilla. Alcalde Char is a huge supporter of the Peace Corps and gave a moving speech at our Peace Corps swearing in ceremony. So I of course walk right up to him, exchange hugs and besitos, and even got to dance with the mayor a bit J

After the Marc Anthony show, and going out to a dance club with the crew afterwards, there was nothing ‘wee’ about the hour of the morning we got home.  However, Carnival is about stamina so we were back up and at it in our neighborhood on Sunday night!  Every neighborhood tends to have Carnival parties, and by this point in the weekend, my energy was waning, so I decided to stay in the neighborhood and spend time dancing to the live music with friends there. 

Colombians dressed up in all sorts of crazy costumes for Carnival, but living in Cartagena there weren’t any venders selling Carnival costumes, so I had to wing it a bit with impromptu wigs that turned me blue, and this borrowed mask.

My personal Cumbia's all in the hips!!

I had planned in staying in Barranquilla through Tuesday, but due to several factors I had to leave on Monday.  Next year, I plan on doing some training for Carnival though to see if I can make it all four days…and I suggest those of you who plan on visiting for Carnival do too J

Thanks, y’all.  Miss you and can’t wait to catch up in person one day…

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