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Barranquilla's carnival slogan, quien lo viven es quien lo goza, translates to who lives it, is who enjoys it. After missing the past two Carnivals while in Colombia, I was finally able to attend one this year and found out for myself that the slogan holds true.
Barranquilla's Carnival is one of the more well-known and famous carnivals in South America and Barranquilla, a port town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is mainly know for two things: the birthplace of Shakira and its Carnival. It takes place in February each year and is four days of parades and parties.
I have been wanting to go to Carnival since my first year in Cali, when I didn't realize that it was happening until it was too late. My second year, I didn’t look into plane tickets soon enough and by the time we did, flights to Baranquilla were astronomical. This year, however, I made it my goal to go, purchasing my flight and booking a hotel room in September. That's right: September. I wasn't going to miss it this year.
So, finally, last February, I flew to Barranquilla on a Friday. Since the parades weren't starting until Saturday, I spent Friday looking for a costume, because I hadn't thought to come prepared with one (and trust me on this: a Carnival is not a Carnival without a costume).
I ended up keeping it simple and went with a bright blue Carnival t-shirt. I added a Panama hat (the Caribbean sun ain't no joke), threw on some mardi gras beads and called it a day. Others though, I found, went much, much bigger as there is apparently no such thing as too big at Carnival.
Even though the parades aren't till Saturday, you can still find plenty to do on Friday night. I ended up in a free Cumbia concert in a open field with my friends and even though, I had no idea how to dance Cumbia, I got right up next to the stage, tried the best I could and had a blast.
The next day, we left early for the parade route. I thought this would be plenty of time to find the minipalco we had gotten seats for before hand, but it wasn't. Words to the wise: splurge for seating (even if you don't actually sit, it's nice to have a reserved area to be in) and set out early. It took us a few frustrating hours, and a official escort to walk us down the parade route, before we actually made it to our minipalaco.
By that time, it was after noon and we were hot and tired, but then the parade started and everything got better. And by better, I mean AWESOME. The parade began with a group of Barranquilla sanitation workers dancing down the street to a choreographed routine. Um, can you say, AMAZING!
And it just kept getting better. The music, the costumes, and the dancing was incredible. I didn't sit down once, spending the entire time dancing, yelling, cheering the entire time, and making friends with some of the people participating in the parade. Towards the end, I jumped the fence and joined in. It wasn’t my idea, but it happened and I couldn't tell you how or why, but before I knew it, I was over the fence and didn't look back.
While I had to leave on Sunday, missing out on the rest of the parades, one parade was plenty for me and completely worth the planning and expense to finally make it there. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, I WANT TO LIVE IT EVERY YEAR!