The southwest Colombian town of San Juan de Pasto concluded its Black and White Carnival on Sunday with an unexpected guest, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos attending the traditional grand parade.
According to local media, Santos, festively dressed in a poncho and hat, said “what a fantastic carnival this is. Long live Pasto!”
Santos’ jovial mood reflected the day’s festivites as dozens of floats and countless costumed performers paraded through the town marking the end of the carnival which began on January 2.
The festival mainly celebrates ethnic and cultural differences and principles of equality, which is reflected in the fusion between the carnival’s traditional Andean roots and its more modern European influences. On the penultimate day, carnival participants cover themselves in black and white powder to symbolize their similarities and differences within a spirit of equality.
Around 600,000 people participated in the festival last year — a number Alvaro Gomez, Pasto’s secretary of culture, believes will pale in comparison to this year’s turnout. Gomez reportedly expected an attendance record of over one million people.
In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) chose the Pasto Carnival as one of the great examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,
Santos’ visit marks the first by a current Colombian president.