Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the festival of Carnaval and its cultural components, I’ll share my own experience. I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t have a ton of pictures to share because pickpocketing is a very common thing here, so I didn’t always have my phone with me. When I did, it was generally my work phone, which doesn’t take the best-quality photos. Sorry!
The Saturday that we arrived in our municipios was the day of our coronation and declaration of Pre-Carnaval. Three out of the four in our group headed over to the stadium with our host siblings’ and host cousins’ friends around 7:30. Two hours later, the show began. It was an impressive hour-long show filled with all of the different types of music, dancing, and costumes that we would see throughout Carnaval season. It ended with the coronation, and our queen telling us to party it up.
The next day was a parade of folklore. Various comparsas (dance groups) showed off their skills for multiple hours. They danced the dances that we had seen the night before in the show, but each group had their special dance, so I thought that overall the dances we saw here were better. Someday I would love to be in a comparsa (there’s one current volunteer in a cumbia comparsa!), but I’m not sure how they dance for that long in that hot sun!
Then there was the mulecart parade. My host sister rented a mulecart and decorated it, and her daughters and their friends rode in the parade. This was a surprisingly smaller parade, but it was fun to see what people did with their mulecarts. There were 2 Steve Harvey representations with fake Miss Universe coronations.
Then there was the competition for the Reina Popular (People’s Queen), in which all of the town’s neighborhood Reinas participated. This was an especially fun event because my host sister was our neighborhood’s Reina! Myself and the other girls from Peace Corps here joined her friends to create her barra – basically her posse – and cheered her on as she danced, smiled, and eloquently answered questions. Another girl’s host brother was her partner in her dance number, so that also made it super fun! My host sister was definitely my favorite candidate, but wasn’t named reina popular despite putting on a really great show. I have no idea how she danced that much in those heels and still walked home in them on the dirt road that night!
Next was the Batalla de Flores, followed by the intermunicipal queen competition. My host sister and I went to the plaza for the competition just in time for the coronation. Our town’s queen won! Viva Palmar!
While not truly a Carnaval event, I also went with my host family to the Festival de Cerveza (Beer Festival). The name is misleading; it was a concert featuring a bunch of the artists responsible for the songs we’ve been hearing over and over again. The only beer served was Coors Lite, and you had to pay for it. It was still really fun to be with the family and enjoy some music and dancing!
Then there was the Gran Parada here in Palmar. It was….not great. But a bunch of us followed it up with some dancing at a local discoteka, so it was all made fun in the end.
There’s definitely been a lot going on, and it’s been a great time. I’m also ready for it to be done for a while!