Carnaval in Latin America

CarnavalCarnaval, also called carnival, is celebrated in many places throughout South America. Carnaval, as spelled in Portuguese, is a 4-day celebration. It starts on Saturday and ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi-Gras). Dates change every year, this year it is going to be from Saturday, March 1st till Tuesday, March 4th. Carnaval is always a noisy, energetic celebration of music and dance and exhibitions.

Each country celebrates carnival differently but it carries the same spirit of party and good energy. Here are some examples of Carnaval celebrations

Barranquilla – Colombia.

Billed as the second largest carnival in South America, the grand parade of Barranquilla’s carnival has it all – group after group of folkloric dancers and singers wearing colorful costumes; very unique floats (or carriages as the locals call them); and finally, a cast of characters that may be unmatched anywhere in the world.

Dominican Republic

Two of the main characteristics of this Carnival are its flashy costumes and the loud music played during the celebration. Some of the most known parades of this country is the one held in La Vega, which is one of the biggest in the country, and the National Parade held in Santo Domingo. It was here where the first Carnival of the Americas was held, and it is also one of the biggest in the region.

One of the main attractions are its masks, which are very elaborate and colorful. The elaborate costumes used in the parades are satires of the Devil and are called “Diablos Cojuelos”.


La Diablada Carnival, takes place in the city of Oruro in central Bolivia. It is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the miners, Vírgen de Socavon (the Virgin of the Tunnels). Over 50 parade groups dance, sing and play music over a five kilometer-long course. Participants dress up as demons, devils, angels, Incas and Spanish conquerors. There are various kinds of dances such as caporales and tinkus. The parade runs from morning until late at night, 18 hours a day, during the 4 days of carnival.


A common feature of Ecuadorian Carnival is the diablitos (little devils) who play with water. The practice of throwing or dumping water on unsuspecting victims is especially revered by children and teenagers, and feared by some adults. Throwing water balloons, sometimes even eggs and flour both to friends and strangers passing by the street can be a lot of fun but can also annoy unfamiliar foreigners and even locals.

Although the government as well as school authorities forbid such games, it is still widely practiced throughout the country.

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

A beautiful show takes place in Rio Carnival, with samba schools parading in the Sambadrome (“sambódromo” in Portuguese). Called “One of the biggest shows of the Earth”, the festival attracts millions of tourists, both Brazilians and foreigners who come from everywhere to participate and enjoy the great show. Samba Schools are large, social entities with thousands of members and a theme for their song and parade each year.

The whole city feels a party ambiance not only from the Sambadrome parade, but from many other activities that takes place over four days. This parade is definitely one bucket list item for anyone interested in cultural events from all over the world.

Source:  Carnival | Sounds and Colours | South American music and culture magazine


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