Barranquilla, Colombia is home to the second largest carnival in the world (right after Rio in Brazil). Each year basically the entire month of February (okay…and most of January) is spent in preparation for the four days of intense celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. Although the actual Carnaval is held in Barranquilla, the entire costal region joins in the celebration. Last year, I traveled to Barranquilla to experience Carnaval first hand. This year I decided to stay here in Santa Marta, where there is definitely no shortage of Carnaval craziness! After the month long preparations, normal activity on the coast is paralyzed for four days while parades, concerts, festivals, street parties, and mass chaos takes over the cities.
The last few weeks at my school have been a little crazy with all of the preparations and today was IED Simon Bolivar’s “Carnavalito”. Schools on the coast have varying levels of celebrations at their schools. Some of the more affluent schools go all out and rent amazingly beautiful costumes, have performances, decorate the school, and put on quite the show! My school is very limited in terms of funding, and most of the students and their families cannot afford to contribute much, but I was amazed with what they were able to do with limited means! Not to mention the fact that these kids don’t need anything fancy to have a good time, they were having the time of their lives! The kids all came to school around 6:30am all decked out in their Carnaval gear. The idea in dressing for Carnaval is basically the flashier, the better. Colorful t-shirts, big crazy jewelry, head pieces covered in jewels/feathers/sequins/ribbon, and crazy print leggings were some of the favorites. In addition, there are the traditional Carnaval costumes like the marimonda, el garabato, el negrito, el torito, monocuco, los cabezones, las muñeconas, and el tigrillo (google those to see pictures!). Once everyone was assembled in the street, we blasted music and paraded through the streets of Gaira. Each year there is a king (rey momo) and queen (reina) of Carnaval, and the schools also choose a king and queen! Our rey momo and reina got to ride up on a float. One of the staples of Carnaval is ‘foamy’ or ‘spuma’ (foam) and ‘maizena’ (cornstarch) which everyone throws everywhere. When we returned to the school, the next three hours were spent having a giant dance party, a makeshift reggeton concert, and some more full blown chaos.
I left school covered in a mixture of sweat/foamy/maizena, exhausted from a huge five hour party, but with a huge smile on my face because seeing the kids have so much fun makes me so very happy. The spirit of Carnaval here in costal Colombia is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The motto sums it up pretty well, “Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza!” (Who lives it, is who enjoys it!)
Until next time…..paz y amor.
See all of the pictures as well as others from my second year at IED Simon Bolivar here.