Back This Winter: The Biggest Carnival Blowout You’ve Never Heard of, in Barranquilla, Colombia

December 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, Colombia, festivals/celebrations, South America | Leave a comment
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by José Balido

Just a little more than nine weeks to go till pre-Lenten Carnaval time, and if you’re thinking of a warm getaway to the biggest party in the Latin world, Rio de Janeiro’s is always a rip-roaring crowd-pleaser — but it’s also massively mobbed, pretty pricey, and these days, to say the least, just a wee bit overcommercialized. For a taste of this annual revelry that’s both more affordable and closer to its folkloric roots (so much so that it’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage list), consider the second-largest Carnaval (in 2010, February 13-16), bringing more than a half-million people to Barranquilla, just down the Caribbean coast from historic Cartagena. This city of 1.7 million isn’t much to see most of the year — despite some nice historic homes, a small museum of city history and Carnaval lore, and historic bar-cum-eatery La Cueva, onetime hangout of Colombian literary legend Gabriel García Márquez and his circle. But come February, normal life shuts down, partying erupts, and city authorities and private Carnaval societies come together to throw parades with floats and costumed characters both traditional (gold- or white-faced, African-derived congos) and contemporary (Hugo Chávez, Barack Obama, hot chicas in skimpy outfits); you’re likely to have corn flour flung and water guns squirted at you, but everybody takes it in good humor. More info:,


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