Carnival is an important event in the South American cultural calendar. It takes place in February or early March, before lent, in order to celebrate before the period of fasting before Easter. In the southern hemisphere, this is the end of the summer, and the perfect time to party with extravagant street displays of dancing and music. While there is one location that comes to mind specifically when thinking of the carnival in South America, it is actually celebrated in towns and cities all over the continent. Here in this journal entry we will count down, in no particular order, our top five favourite carnival celebrations in South America.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We have to start with the most famous carnival in the world - Rio de Janeiro. Famous the world over, even appearing in the children’s animated movie Rio and the bond film Moonraker, this is the quintessential South American carnival. The main event is a huge parade along the Sambadrome - a specialised parade runway - where Samba schools from all over the country compete for Carnival champion. But the fun doesn’t stop there - for the entire long weekend, the whole city goes crazy, with street parties everywhere you look. But this isn’t the only carnival in Brazil...
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
The carnival in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahai, has held the Guinness World Record for largest street parade in the world, vying for pole position with Rio. It is also the spot of the very first electric carnival float back in the 1950s. The parades in Salvador happen all over the city, on three main circuits: the Campo Grande circuit, the Barra-Ondina circuit, and the Pelourinho circuit, each boasting their own unique flavours and vibes. But the fun doesn't stop in Brazil…
Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia
The carnival of Barranquilla, located on the coast of Colombia, is the largest carnival outside Brazil. This is one of Colombia’s most important cultural events, and UNESCO named it one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. Its unique position so close to the Carribbean makes the carnival a unique melding pot of cultures, with influences from Spanish, African, Caribbean, and Indiginous Colombian traditions. One of the highlights is La Batalla de Flores (The Battle of the Flowers), a six-hour show with live music, folk dancing, fire breathers, and of course, floats. And now for something a bit more extravagant…
The carnival in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is the longest in the world, lasting for up to 40 days. It begins in mid-January, and lasts usually until the end of February. It is very different to other carnivals, with a focus on the arts, with street stages called tablados and an artistic contest in the Teatro de Verano (Summer Theatre). There is a lot of comedy in the festival, including satirical musical shows called Murgas which mock current events, as well as parodies of films, novels, and songs being performed. However, it wouldn’t be a South American carnival without parades, and the Samba parade competition is a major part of the festival.
Finally, we have the Carnival of Gualeguaychú in Argentina. Of course we had to mention a carnival from Argentina, pampeano’s birthplace. This carnival is nicknamed “The Carnival of the Country”, and is the most important one in all of Argentina. Unlike other carnivals which usually take place over a long weekend, the Gualeguaychú carnival takes place every Saturday of January, February, and the first Saturday of March. In these parades, five comparsas - or teams - formed from clubs and social centres from around the country, compete for a cash prize. It is quite the spectacle, and really brings the summers to life in the city.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the different carnivals of South America - and there are many more to discover. If you’re thinking of attending, while you’re here, check out our range of vibrant leather polo belts and matching dog accessories as well as our luxury leather goods which would complete any carnival outfit. Happy Carnival!