Carnaval is quickly shaping up to be my favorite holiday. Four days of music, dance, parades, costumes and street parties in some foreign local? YES, thank you! While I’ve never experienced the states’ version of the celebration of excess in New Orleans, I’ve had the pleasure of donning a colorful outfit or two and taking to the streets in Spain, Brazil and now Colombia to celebrate the festival of debauchery.
Carnaval is celebrated in most predominantly Catholic countries for four days (or over a week) before the start Lent, the 40 days of abstinence leading up to Easter.
In 2009, I enjoyed my first Carnaval a la Española in Cadiz. The Spanish are really good at dressing up in group-themed costumes. They fully play the part of their outfits, whether it’s a herd of cows of a fleet of cop cars; they push shopping carts around full of booze and sing and play kazoos.
In 2010 I upped the anti a little heading to Rio’s world famous Carnaval. Worthy of its mantle as the biggest party in the world, there’s nothing quite like the hoards of revelers who come to play in Rio’s spectacular setting. However, with the high price of tickets to see the impressive parades in the Sambadromo and the sheer magnitude of the party, it could be a little inaccessible at times.
Last week’s Carnaval in Barranquilla – Colombia’s biggest party and second in size only to Rio – did not disappoint.
However, when we arrived to Barranquilla we were in for bit of a shock to find that the apartment that eight of us had rented out, complete with three large bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a pool etc., simply did not exist. We were majorly scammed, as we had each put down about $80 USD as downpayment… and then we were eight gringos in a city during Carnaval with no hotel rooms available.
Miss Molly, who had been working behind the bar of the Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta (which is just an hour or so away from Barranquilla) was able to come and play before returning to the States. So good to play with an old friend in such a different time and space!
Barranquilla’s parades were fabulous, a really impressive mix of the European, African and indigenous dances and traditions distinct to Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
I got a press pass to attend the Bomba Estereo concert and wrote this article for a Medellin-based magazine La Arepa.
The thing that was so superbly special about Barranquilla’s Carnaval (and this is what makes Colombia stand out from other countries as well) is the people. Barranquilleros, and Colombians in general are friendly, open and helpful. And despite the local or the decorations, its the people that make the party.