The world’s second largest carnival after Rio de Janeiro, renowned for its colorful cultural fusion, begins Saturday in Barranquilla on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
For four days beginning Saturday March 5, normal day-to-day activities in Barranquilla will be suspended as the city is overcome by revelers who flock to witness, and take part in, Colombia’s biggest party of the year. Carnival sparks a transformation of an otherwise drab city in the days preceding Ash Wednesday and Barranquilla’s streets will fill with non-stop festivities including parades, concerts and dances for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike.
Dating back to the 19th century, Barranquilla’s carnival has roots in the Spanish Catholic tradition but has incorporated aspects of African and indigenous culture, epitomizing the ethnic fusion that characterizes Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The Barranquilla Carnival is a spectacular stage for the region to express its unique ethnic diversity through music, dance, color and costumes.
“Barranquilla’s Carnival is distinct because it is a celebration of the people, of our African, European and American roots. The ethnic dances, unique characters and costumes are unlike the carnival celebrations of Rio de Janeiro, or Europe, for example,”Nestar Romero, a representative of the Carnival of Barranquilla foundation, told Colombia Reports.
A highlight of the scheduled activities include Saturday’s Battle of the Flowers parade, which kicks off the festivities. The traditional parade, which has been a hallmark of Barranquilla’s carnival since 1903, is a procession of flower-adorned floats, bands, dance troops and costumed groups. The parade will be headed by 2011’s Carnival Queen Marcela Davila Marquez, who will toss flowers onto to her subjects and revelers.
The Grand Parade, which will take place on Sunday, showcases local dances including the sultry cumbia which simulates a couple courting, the garabato, a stylized dance that symbolizes the victory of life over death and the torito folk dance in which a group pantomimes a bullfight with singing and dancing.
The four days of festivities come to a close on Tuesday with the “funeral” of Joselito Carnival. Joselito is a character symbolizing the revelry that is carnival. After four days of intense partying, Joselito dies and he is symbolically buried representing a farewell to the indulgence of carnival and the start of Lent, the Catholic period of fasting and prayer before Easter.
For the main parades there will be sections of bleachers where you can reserve a seat for prime viewing, but there will always be standing room for the reveler on a budget.
Extra police forces will be brought in to Barranquilla for the week around carnival to ensure the safety of the tourists and participants of the parades, said Romero.
“Barranquilla is a celebration for adults, it’s a big party, yes, but is also a celebration of the diverse expressions of our culture,” said the Carnival of Barranquilla Foundation representative.