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-- Mark Twain
Hello to everyone!
The Carnaval has just finished on Tuesday the 9th, after a month of parties, dancing, concerts, and parades. This year I went to three of the major parades - the Batalle de Flores, The Gran Parada de Comparsas, and the Joselito se va con la Cenizas. I did not go to the Guacherna and Gran Parada de Tradicion. Maybe next year I will go to those. There are many pictures (taken with my cellphone, not a real camera) in the photo album so be sure to have a look at them. Anyway, here is some background information about the Barranquilla Carnaval -
In Colombia the Carnaval de Barranquilla is the biggest and most important celebration of the traditions, folklore, and customs of Colombia. The exact beginnings of the Carnaval are not known, but the first recorded celebrations were in 1888. The parade known as Batalla de Flores (Battle of Flowers) fist started in 1903. It was meant to celebrate the end of the 1000 Days War (Guerra de los Mil Dias). 1918 was the year the first beauty queen was elected and featured in the Carnaval. She is the primary host of the Carnaval. In 2002 the Carnival was declared as Cultural Masterpiece of the Nation. And in 2003 the Carnival of Barranquilla was proclaimed by UNESCO on November 7, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Carnaval began on January 16 with a big concert and speach by the Carnaval Queen, announcing the beginning of a month of dancing, partying, and having much fun. That is followed by more big fiestas and concerts and many neighborhood fiestas and concerts. There are 7 major fiestas and concerts between Jan 17 and 31, and around 15 other smaller events. Then between February 1 and 9 there are between 25 - 30 more parades, fiestas, concerts, displays of dances, comedies, and much more. People from all over the country and all over the world come to Barranquilla for this Carnaval. There are many carnival celebrations through-out the world, but there is only one Carnaval in the world that is bigger than this one, and that is the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval in Brazil.
This next section is all from the brochure published by the Barranquilla Carnaval organization and is their own translation.
The Carnaval de Barranquilla is a celebration of a town that year by year unites to set the scene for a theatre of tradition that brims in imagination, music, joy, and dance.
This collective celebration discovers its roots in the multiple cultural manifestations that combined in the quotidian of the diverse groups that populated the Colombian Caribbean coast.
It is an encounter between the sacred and profane; the rural and urban; the past and the present. The Carnaval reverses social roles, the matters of order, and the impertinent day-to-day cedes, to give way to new realities marked by freedom, spontaneity, laughter, and madness.
The Carnaval de Barranquilla is a cultural demonstration of such importance that it has been granted a double designation: Heritage of the Nation, granted by the National Congress of Colombia on November 26, 2001ñ and Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, title granted by UNESCO in Paris, on November 7, 2003.
During the Carnaval the city becomes a stage brimmed with cultural expressions that are diverse, traditional, ingenious, and spontaneous. It is a season of festivities that commences in the month of January closes on ‘Carnaval Tuesday’, the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Catholic Lent. The Carnaval has innumerable events, in which everyone participates without restrictions of race, creed or social condition.
Regardless of the its European origins, the Carnaval de Barranquilla is a celebration which possesses its own identity and with over a century of tradition.
Its defined structure is due to the multiple cultural backgrounds that allowed an European celebration to transform into a product of a creative cultural blend. It is a result of the coexistence of various peoples, especially the indigenous, European, and African; that provided their manifestations of music, dances, costumes, masks, and paraphernalia.
Barranquilla is the capital of the department of Atlántico, located in the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, in northern South America, and between the cities of Santa Marta and Cartagena. This is the happiest and most festive city of Colombia.
This urban centre has received migrations that have enriched its festive traditions and custom since the 19th century. It is an industrial, commercial, port city where culture and history join together to offer a variety of activities. Among them popular dance, an exquisite gastronomy, architectural jewels, and its paramount celebration, the Carnaval de Barranquilla.
The warm, spontaneous, and welcoming spirit of its people invite locals and visitors alike to partake of its art and talent, expressed in design, the arts, music, and literature, that transform it into a cultural city.
Every year, forty days prior to Easter, this city offers the chance for an unique experience. Come, enjoy, live the Carnaval de Barranquilla
As a creative space that reaffirms freedom and irreverence towards the established order, the Carnaval has a unique folkloric inventory that is manifested in music, dance, troupes, costumes, and comedy that every year take over the streets of Barranquilla.
Cumbia is the name of the typical dance of Barranquilla’s Carnival, an elegant and gallant dance defined as a result of three main cultures, the Native, the Spanish and the African. This influence is evident in its choreography, costumes and instruments used to perform a very complex and startling music.
Garabato symbolizes to two opposite concepts: life and death. Life is represented by a joyful dance and colorful attire and dynamic basic steps. Death is impersonated by a thin and tall man who wears a skull makeup and bears a long and particular stick called garabato that uses to catch and take away the dancers.
Congo is a warrior’s dance from Africa. It is represented by a fauna and its musicians play drums and guacharaca accompanying a singer. The choreography includes a battle of the Congos with a bull. It has a colorful gown with a turban and main rib that are outlined and embroidered and it goes with a neck tie and an apron. At the beginning, women were not allowed to perform so men had to be disguised as a woman.
Mapalé - Mapale
Mapale is the most traditional African dance related to the Carnival. It is a dance with very sensual movements of waist, hip and arms that goes on crescendo.
It is a dance of couples performed with drums and palms and singing. At the beginning, it was a labor dance performed at nights, but later it gained thru time and performance its sensual and frenetic character.
Baile Negro y Son de Negro - Black dance and black son
African inheritance in the Carnival dances is humungous. Women hips movements are fast but could also be slow and sensual. Among these dances there is one called Son de Negro, where men are made up in black with intense red lips, color that helps to emphasize a movement of the eyes, mouth and tongue. The body is generally with a tense attitude slightly bent forward or backward.
Danzas de Relación - Relation Dances
These dances have poems, verses that are said while performed. They are considered traditional jewels because of its oral creation that is transmitted thru generations. For its interpretation, dancers need to be standing up in a location. The most representative are Paloteo’s Dance, Dance of Coyongos, Goleros or Gallinazos, Cayman Dance and Pilanderas’ Dance.
Danzas Especiales - Special dances
There are also other traditional dances and choreography that differ by their meaning. They represent an own traditional argument of the Carnival and do not have verses. Its choreography is a game that is allowed to add characteristics of other regional dances such as Devils’ Dance, Dance of the Worm, Dance of the Farotas, Dance of Indians.
Comparsas - Troupes
The troupes are groups of dancers whose free expression, creativity, and ingenuity are a bastion for the choreographic proposal of the Carnaval. In their demeanour they have assimilated costumes that are traditional of the Carnaval, such as marimondas, monocucos, and toritos. Other groups are inspired in popular music or countries and their rhythms.
Disfraces - Costumes
The origin of the traditional costumes of the Carnaval de Barranquilla date back to the birth of the celebration and amasses the legacies of European, African, and indigenous cultures. The popular costumes of the Carnaval use parody, caricature, and satire to ridicule reality. As a constant game depicting the renewal of life, the act of disguising as someone else subverts identities and invites to enjoy with humour.
Comedias - Comedies
Popular theatre groups and streetwise performers make representations and parodies of diverse situations of social and political nature that could be very amusing and entertaining. They are stand up performances.
These are troupes formed of people who, through the use of the spoken word, recite verses that are replied by the rest of the group. The majority are themed on current events, which are the starting point for critique, censorship, or joke.
Lectura del Bando - Reading of the Bando
A folkloric and musical event marks the beginning of the festivities. The Queen declares the beginning of the carnival by reading her royal decree. She receives the keys of the city from the Mayor and invites the people to enjoy the party. Following the ceremony, a parade of folkloric groups travels through the main streets of the city.
It is an evening parade with dances, cumbias, group and individual costumes, lights and lanterns that mark the beginning of the carnival season. The night is the perfect stage for people to go out and show that the most joyful carnival of the world is about to start.
Batalla de Flores - Battle of Flowers
Saturday afternoon, this traditional parade opens the four day long festivity with an explosion of tradition, joy and artistic creativity. It includes the winners of the previous year competition in the categories of folkloric groups, and costumes, along with orchestras and artists, and takes place throughout the Cumbiodromo.
Gran Parada de Tradición - Great Traditional and Folkloric Parade
Tradition and folklore are the main characteristics of this splendorous parade that occurs on Sunday. Cumbias, Congos, afrocolombian dances, Garabatos, and other traditional groups participate as a tribute to Colombia’s Caribbean region’s dancing and musical tradition.
Festival de Orquestas - An Orchestra Contest
Scenario where music local, regional, national and international groups play three different rhythms in order to compete for a gold Congo, main award to be obtained by the winning orchestra. It is in itself the main concert of the Carnival that puts a joyful audiences to dance.
Joselito Carnaval - Joselito Carnaval
Joselito Carnaval represents the end of the Carnival after three days of feast. A short parade similar to a funeral procession where the groups of dancers of the town dramatize the legend of Joselito Carnaval, a character represented in a rag doll. Barranquilla has declared since the old days, that Joselito has to die every year as the Carnival ends.
Casa del Carnaval - Carnival House
Located in Barrio Abajo, a traditional neighborhood in Barranquilla, this architectural jewel constructed in 1929 preserves the town architectural style of the beginning of last century and has been refurbished by the Caridi Mitrani family at the beginning of the 90’s and was given as a donation to the Carnaval de Barranquilla Foundation where its headquarters are settled and it has become a meeting point to the carnival participants.
Sala del Carnaval ‘Elsa Caridi’ - Museum of Carnival ‘Elsa Caridi’
It is an interactive space to find out about the Carnival and to enjoy through a sensorial and pedagogic experience one of the most representative cultural manifestations of Barranquilla. It’s Carnival has been appointed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Immaterial Heritage of the Humanities and its contemporary layout is based on documentary, photographic and audio-visual data.
La Tienda del Carnaval - Carnival Store
The shop is a result of “a handmade Carnival”, a program of the Carnaval de Barranquilla Foundation that promotes the production of traditional crafts inspired by the dances, and disguises of the Carnival mixed with modern and exclusive designs made by native craft masters.
It has a double purpose, the one of preserving ancient crafts techniques and the fundraising activities in order to accomplish projects of social impact on behalf of those who makes this Carnival possible.
Well, that's about all for now. I do keep my website updated at least once a month, and have been posting pictures of Barranquilla in the photo album.
Till next time - Chao!
Please consider helping me help people here in Colombia. I am not a foundation or organization that will allow you to use tax-deductions for your donations, I am just a guy who is helping people improve their lives and the lives of their families. It's not easy to do alone, and there are needs that I simply cannot afford. So, if you feel inclined to help me in this journey, there are links in the right column for doing just that. Thank you.
I teach english as a foreign language in Barranquilla, Colombia. In my previous life, as I call it, I was an IT guy, systems administrator, computer tech, as well as a shipping/receiving guy and also worked as a merchandising guy for a year for a camping/RV accessories store.
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