This is my city, my hometown; the place I have always lived in. Ever since I can remember, my favorite time of the year has been the carnival season. How could it not be? A new year begins: it’s only the first of January and you can already feel the excitement and energy roaming through the streets. And we –the locals– steadily become more enthusiastic with the upcoming events, our happiness stirred by the sun, the sea and the river.
This year, on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th of February, the parades were the main event during the daylight hours. Colorful groups of 50-60 people perform choreographed dances, each representing a part of the Colombian history.
There’s Mapale, given to our culture by the Africans that were once brought by spaniards as slaves. Its rhythm is mainly the sound of different traditional tambours and costumes worn by the dancers also represent typical clothes worn by Africans during their religious rituals in the XVI century.
Cumbia, on the other hand, is a perfect representation of the ethnic clash in Colombia. It mixes tamboras (of African origin, as mentioned before), gaita and millo – from our own natives. Their costume is traditional spanish clothing of the colonial times.
The dance of life and death is called the Garabato, which narrate an old aboriginal legend about a woman who fought personally with death to prevent it from taking the life of the man she loved. As the story develops, we see how the woman saves her husband’s life with the aid of the tamboras and the guacharaca (another native instrument).
There are many more dances and they are all beautiful beyond the capacity of my words. But once the sun is set, concerts all over the city begin, the main streets are shut down and the area is suddenly filled with hysterical people. National and international artists contribute to our festivities every night; music is played for them and the celebrating begins: you are partying with hundreds of people in the street.
Our city lives for the carnival: months of preparation are put in for those 4 days and nights. From the smallest of the children to the oldest elders, our carnival delights everyone. It’s what we have seen our entire life; we were taught to love it and cherish it. The entire city knows that we have to put our 100% into the event – to keep it as extravagant as ever because we believe it is an important Colombian and Barranquillan cultural gift to the world. People from cities across the country come to enjoy our feast, and each year, more and more people experience, what I dare say is, one of the most beautiful carnivals in the world.