We’ve all heard of the Carnival in Rio (in fact, it happened just recently), but fewer people know of the Carnival that takes place every year in Barranquilla, Colombia. This Saturday (5th March), Barranquilla’s streets will cease their regular activities and instead be transformed into an explosion of color, dancing and parades. It’s the biggest carnival in Colombia and the second biggest in South America.
The Barranquilla Carnival can be traced back to the 19th Century, and its roots are strongly linked to the Spanish tradition of intense celebration before the oncoming period of austerity during lent. The carnival is unique, however, in that it incorporates many other aspects of Colombia’s history, and fuses the styles of the many different cultures that coastal Colombia boasts.
This fusion means there’s a great variety of attractions on offer, from music and dance to theatre to displays of art. Even the music and dancing on offer is incredibly varied, including (but by no means limited to) folkloric, salsa, fandango and perhaps Caribbean Colombia’s most iconic musical tradition, cumbia. Revellers can enjoy these many forms of dance and music whilst walking around the city in a relaxed, hedonistic atmosphere. It’s a celebration of Colombian culture, for sure, but Colombians know how to have fun, and that’s really the main focus of anyone coming to Barranquilla Carnival.
The Barranquilla Carnival lasts four days, the first of which involves the inauguration of the whole event, which is signalled by the “Battle of the Flowers” parade. This parade is headed by Carnival Queen Marcela Davila Marquez, who joins a procession of intricate flower displays, throwing flowers onto carnival-goers.
Sunday sees the main event, the Grand Parade, with a series of cumbia displays and some folkloric dance shows that tell traditional Colombian stories. It’s this kind of dedication to storytelling through dance that earned the Barranquilla Carnival a place on UNESCO’s prestigious list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Whatever you do or don’t see at the carnival though, you’re sure to have a great time just enjoying the costumes, the colors and the irreverent dancing of people from near and afar who have dedicated 4 days to pure, unadulterated good fun.