The northern Colombian city of Barranquilla is set to erupt on February 9 when one of Colombia’s largest and most important celebrations, the 200th Barranquilla carnival, begins.
The UNESCO recognized four-day festival is traditionally held four days before Ash Wednesday. Although the true birth of the festival is disputed, it is widely regarded as a mixture of European, African and native South American cultures from around the time of Spanish colonization.
African slaves and indigenous populations from Colombia’s Caribbean coast fused their traditions and as time went by, the celebrations turned into an annual festival and a celebration of the Christian Holy Week.
Barranquilla welcomes tourists from all over the world. Those looking to immerse themselves in the festivities, those searching for just a taste of the sweet, vibrant treats the Carnival has to offer, and those simply interested in basking in the sun in one of Colombia’s best known resorts, will not find themselves alone.
The official launch of the carnival technically began on Saturday when the “Queen of Queens” was named. The queen will help “oversee” the rest of the festival.
Saturday February 9
The carnival begins with what is traditionally known as the “Battle of the Flowers” at 11AM in Via 40. The “battle” is a succession of floats, dancers and musicians who parade around the city while covered in flowers. This battle can trace its roots back to 1903.
Saturday is also the beginning of the Comedy Festival, which lasts until the end of the carnival. The comedy festival begins at 5PM in the Parque Metropolinato.
Sunday February 10
The highlight on Sunday is the Grand Parade, which begins on Via 40 at 1PM. First conceived in 1967, the parade interprets the history of the region through dance troupes and music. Different dance groups compete against each other for the coveted prize of leading the Battle of the Flowers parade the following year.
Sunday’s stint of the Comedy Festival can be seen at Parque Olaya at 5PM.
Monday February 11
Starting at 1PM, the Dance Parade gets underway. The parade not only showcases the region’s dancing talent, but also incorporates a wide array traditional dances such as: cumbia, garabato, and the torito in which a group of dancers act out a pantomime bullfight.
The Festival or Orchestras, a representation of music from across Colombia and Latin America, is held at 1PM in the Romelio Martinez Stadium. First held in 1969, the concert begins in the early afternoon and doesn’t end until the early Tuesday morning whereupon the best orchestra is awarded with the “Golden Congo.”
Tuesday February 12
The mock burial of Joselito Carnava, the symbolic figurehead of the Carnival, is held on Tuesday. The “Funeral” begins at 1PM in the Plaza de la Paz with what is known as the Festival of Special Dances. At 4PM, at the intersection of Carerra 54 and Calle 59, a special celebration and tribute to the spirit of the festival, commonly referred to as “Joselito goes with the ashes” is held before a 5PM prayer service.
The last night of the Carnival is also the last night of the Comedy Festival, which takes place at Parque Almendra at 5PM.