February is Barranquilla’s Carnaval month and the city is vibrating with expectation, music, costumes, colors and madness. Cumbia orchestras are moving from bar, to bar, to restaurant, to private house to play. Everybody dances, women put on a pollera – a long wide skirt – that they move around on the cumbia rhythm. Everybody is nervous because his or her costume will not be ready in town. Like good Caribbeans Barranquilleros always start too late with their preparations for the parades.
The lady who rents me a room has a group that intends to save the planet. They have been working like mules to get everything ready for the carnaval. A huge globe which is going to be carried in the parade is waiting to be shown to the vast crowds. Unfortunately for the lady, especially since she had to find out just days before the festivities and after weeks of preparations, the children of the group don’t want to be dressed up as trees.
Anyway, the music and the costumes are fantastic. Since some years the Barranquilla Carnival is on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage.
Before the Big Carnaval, Barranquilla was hosted the Arts Carnaval. I was invited there because Dutch actress or grande dame of erotics Sylvia Kristel was a guest of honor. The Arts Carnival is a cultural event where the Barranquilleros can meet (international) artists, but the Big Carnaval is already present. Dressed up people enter for free in the shows, for example.
The atmosphere is marvelous, one of Colombia’s great examples that the country is not only war and drugs trade. It is organized by Fundación La Cueva (Cave Foundation). La Cueva was a famous place in Barranquilla: artists like the writer García Márquez and the painter Obregón met there, talked, got drunk and got crazy. Obregón shot at a painting of his mistress which he had made on one of the walls. Because he had lost a bet. You can still see the two bullet holes.
Back to the Big Carnaval. Thursday February 13 is the Guacherna, a parade at night with music and paper laterns. For the first time I am actually going to participate in it.