I just got back to Cartagena yesterday after spending the weekend in Barranquilla with my Peace Corps peeps there. This week up until Tuesday is a big celebration there, although apparently the celebrating has been going on for quite awhile.
Barranquilla has the second largest Carnaval in the world, right after Rio. It’s been named a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Chevere, yes?
Carnaval celebrates the culture of the Costa and there are lots of staple characters that have their own history, their own dances, their own costumes, etc. Costeño culture has roots in Spanish culture (Catholicism, the idea of Lent and Carnaval), African culture (Much of the music, costumes, and dances), and Indigenous cultures (other music, dances and costumes).
Anyways. I was in town for Carnaval, because I hear it’s the place to be this time of year. On Saturday we got seats to the Batalla de Flores which was a huge parade
down one of the main streets of town. I mean, really huge. Hours long. We left early.
I got sunburnt.
But, it was really cool. Colorful, musical, at times strange, but very Colombian.
The night before we went to an all night Cumbia party. Cumbia is a traditional dance here on the coast, and it involves swishing around big skirts for the ladies, and swishing around hats for the men, and shuffling your feet for everyone. This is an over-simplification because I have not been fully trained in the ways of Cumbia. Also, sometimes the ladies have handfuls of candles. Anyways, we shuffled our best and rubbed flour in each other’s faces, and everyone was quite festive.
On Sunday, everyone was feeling kind of washed out, so we didn’t do anything much. I got together with my Barranquilla ladies and we cooked vegetables at my old host family’s house, who very kindly let me stay the weekend. The cooking of the vegetables may have been the most exciting thing of the weekend.
It was quite amazing to see how Barranquilla has transformed since we left for site. The city is all decked out for Carnaval. All the buildings are decorated, some people’s cars have little stuffed Marimondas riding on top, and none of the buses go where they usually go. There were almost as many tourists in Barranquilla for the weekend as there are in a regular day in Cartagena! Haha! Apparently Carnaval has been really annoying for people who are trying to do things like have class, and Carnaval practice and parties keep interrupting. But it was definitely fun for one day.