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Carnaval de Barranquilla

Who lives it, is who enjoys it (Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza).

When you think of the word “carnival”, which words pop into your head? Rio, samba, music, colours, feathers, people, loud, drunks, dancing and just utter madness? To the Carnival of Barranquilla, I would need to add words like incredible, diverse, artistic cultural expression, salsa, Africa, drums and just plain fun! It’s no doubt that The Carnival of Barranquilla is one of the most colourful festivals in the world. And it is Colombia’s way of expressing its music, art, dance, rhythms, races, legends and colours. But did you know that the symbol of the carnival is a dick face? Yes, a dick face, called Marimonda


I was intrigued to why this symbol was used, so I did some research and found this. In the early 20th century (after the Carnival had grown in fame) an ordinary man from Barranquilla decided to create a character to ridicule and embarrass the high society and their expensive fancy clothes. He wore pants and a patched jacket on backwards and made a mask with a long nose, large eyes and a tongue which is always sticking out to demonstrate his feelings for the rich, the government etc and his lack of concern for them. A tie was added to further mock and reject the upper class. Nowadays the image has changed and Marimonda now represents a jock, “cocksucker cock” (hence the dick face association). Basically the image is a mixture of a primate and an elephant and symbolizes the spirit of the man who just wants to enjoy his life and not give a damn about rules of the law.


We spent just one day at the actual street carnival and the experience was one of the most colourful and energizing experiences of my life!
On the Saturday we made our way to the main street and my friends, with their special powers of persuasion, managed to get us in for a good price and a good spot. We socialized with the locals around us and this made the experience even more real and special; as we were sharing an important celebration with the people from this city (and not silly foreigners who just want to get smashed), who shared with us their jokes, stories of the carnival, and their energy, rhythm and love for this festival.


The first Carnival of Barranquilla took place during the 19th Century, and from then on the carnival has become a worldwide attended event, with foreigners joining in on the avid festivities. The festival always takes place forty days before Holy Week (four days before Ash Wednesday) and is a fusion of Colombia’s age -old traditions, folklore, artistic expression, African dance and instruments and the passion that every single Colombian possesses. You will see the most extravagant costumes, dances and acrobatics and live music. You will feel the streets bursting with animation, colours and sounds. But the most important, is the coming together of people from all walks of life, cultures, languages and races with the sole intention of having a good time, singing some songs and celebrating the stories of Colombia’s heritage and traditions.


The Queen of the Carnival is chosen weeks before and she is in charge of coordinating the festival. On different days you can enjoy different themed parades: The Flower parade, The Great Parade, The Orchestra Festival and the carnival ends with the burial of a character called Joselito Carvajal (who represents the joy of the celebrations), who died from drinking and partying too much during the carnival. He is mourned, but is resurrected the following year.

When the sun hit us straight in our eyes, we decided to move and found a really sweet spot: sitting right on the street! The people (in the stands who had paid a fortune, hahaha) behind us shouted at us and told us to move-jealousy makes you nasty!) We had direct and personal contact with the carnival; the dancers, the musicians, the music, the nonstop energy and happy faces. I got body paint on my clothes, I hugged people and I really felt the beat and spirit of the participants.


After 8 hours of standing, shouting, screaming, clapping, singing, eating and drinking, we wearily walked back home. Tired, but bursting with the colourful energy still throbbing through our blood…

Next: Rio Carnival ;-P

Posted by piratejax 08:34 Archived in Colombia

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