Carnaval in Barranquilla
“is a carnival with traditions that date back to the 19th century. It takes place for four days preceding Ash Wednesday
. During the carnival the city of Barranquilla
‘s normal activities are paralyzed because the city gets busy with street dances, musical and masquerade parades. Barranquilla’s Carnival is reputed for being second in size to Rio’s. The Barranquilla Carnival
includes dances like the Spanish paloteo
, African congo
and indigenous mico y micas
. Many styles of Colombian music
are also performed, most prominently cumbia
, and instruments include drums and wind ensembles. The Carnival of Barranquilla was proclaimed by UNESCO
, in November 2003, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
, during Olga Lucia Rodriquez carnival queen year.”
I stepped off the plane in Barranquilla to the hot and sticky weather, with little idea of whether my plan would work. I had kind of arranged to stay with a Colombian family through www.CouchSurfing.com because all hotels are rumored to be fully booked months in advanced. I was enjoying myself a little too much and neglected to confirm that I was really going to be able to stay with this random family and even dtheir address. The day before I flew out he finally emailed me his cell phone number and told me to call him when I arrived.
I dialed his number waiting in the airport pickup. Nobody picked up. I tried again.
Phew!!! He, Gustavo, answered and told me the address, and to take a taxi over to his house.
After a ride through the seedy looking areas of Barranquilla we made it. Only I got dropped off in front of a school. What the hell? I pulled out my phone to double check the address I wrote down and indeed it was correct. Kids were playing outside and the teenage girls sat gossipping. Meanwhile, I was staring at the school wearing my big backpack.
“Are you looking for Gustavo?”, one girl asked.
And with that I was escorted inside the school past the classrooms full of kids, through winding hallways, until we reached a kitchen. Sitting at the table eating lunch were two other foreigners. Ben, a recent graduate from California working who works in Nicaragua. Perry too, a 17 year old from London who sold his Playstation and guitar to buy a plane ticket to Colombia to live with his girlfriend who’s parents tricked her into moving back.
Ben explained the situation to me. Every year, Gustavo and his family host a bunch of foreigners from Couchsurfing for carnaval. They provide everyone a place to stay with blow up beds in the classrooms, 3 meals a day, and Gustavo drives everyone around the city for the best events and party’s each day. This lasts the entire week and they do it out of generosity, refusing any sort of payment. Ben knows all of this because he stayed with them for last year’s carnaval and had such a great time that he decided to return.
I, like Ben and Perry, had arrived a day before everyone else was expected to come. Gustavo soon came home from work and the four of us began the day’s errands to prepare for everyone arriving the next day.
Gustavo drove us around the city where we bought air mattresses, sheets, and a lot more. We drove through crowded markets that cars had no business being in, often stopped the car in the middle of the street to buy some illegally imported Venezuelan beer, and enjoyed the chaos leading up to carnaval starting the next night.
Gustavo has many sides to him. He is an attorney in his late 30’s and holds a high government position in Barranquilla, making plenty of money. He’s also nuts in a good way, as in he loves to party. This combination makes him the ideal host.
This is Gustavo.
Everyone arrived at various times the next day. We spent much of the day finishing last minute chores and hanging out at Gustavo’s office surfing the internet. But when night came, we wasted no time in starting the festivities.
The bunch of us packed into Gustavo’s truck and our first stop was the corner store where we unloaded to buy beer, and then loaded ourselves back into the truck so we could drive to this concert.
On the left is Ben, a stranger, and another stranger I befriended for the night.
The girl I am dancing with is Emily, Gustavo’s neice. She and her sister spent the entire week partying with us.
In this photo from the left are Charlotte from Montreal, Gustavo, Jens from England, Magnus from Sweden, a stranger, and Samuel from Austria.
Magnus played an important role throughout the week. He is so tall, blond, and gringo looking so he served as the group’s north star. If I separared from the group, looking up for Magnus was an easy way to find everyone. He is also pretty interesting in that he sailed from Europe to South America by working on a private yacht.
Samuel all the way on the right turned out to be pretty interesting himself. He acted like an asshole to everyone right from the start. For instance, Magnus, I, and another guy were walking around Barranquilla with Samuel and he would make an effort to keep a 20 foot distance ahead of us the entire time. His answer to every question was short and to the point.
On the left is Perry from London and an Israeli girl whose name I now forget.
On the far left is from Austria and the baby is someone the group befriended that night. I felt a bit bad for this little boy because Samuel nearly dropped him on his head a few times while he was twirling him around pretty carelessy.
On the far right is Silvio, Gustavo’s cousin.
And that is Samuel again, lying on the ground at the entrance to the school. You see, Samuel tried to take advantage of Charlotte while she was nearly passed out. One of the guy’s from the group said something to Samuel and he stormed off angrily. When we returned back home, we found Samuel had climbed over the locked gate and fell asleep in the front yard.
When we woke him up and opened the front door he ignored everyone, gathered his bags, and walked down the street where he sat in front of a neighbors door. Many of us tried to get him to come inside but he kept acting immature and would not talk to anyone. We nearly called the police because he would probably get mugged sleeping outside but someone warned us against it since he had tons of hard drugs like cocaine and heroine in his bag, which he had been taking every day. Apparently the first thing he said to Perry after he was introduced, was if Perry knew where he could buy some cocaine. After some talking, Perry managed to get Samuel to come inside and we all went to sleep. Samuel alone in one classroom while everyone else slept in another.
This is only the first of a few posts for Carnaval. You can expect more posts with lots of photos in the coming days.