Barranquilla's Carnival

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Carnival of Barranquilla
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Baile de la Cumbia - Barranquilla.jpg
Folkloric groups dancing at the carnival

Location Barranquilla, Colombia
Type Intangible cultural heritage
Reference 00051
UNESCO region Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 2003 (27th Session)
Barranquilla's Carnival
Carnaval de Barranquilla
Official name Carnaval de Barranquilla
Observed by Various locales, usually ones historically associated with Catholic populations.
Type Local, cultural, catholic
Significance Celebration prior to fasting season of Lent.
Celebrations Parades, parties, orchestras festival
Date Four days before Ash Wednesday
2016 date February 6, 7, 8 and 9
2017 date February 25, 26, 27 and 28
Frequency Annual
Related to Carnival SZ + ADP

Barranquilla's Carnival (Spanish: Carnaval de Barranquilla) is Colombia's most important folkloric celebration, and one of the biggest carnivals in the world. The carnival has traditions that date back to the 19th century. Forty days before Holy Week, Barranquilla decks itself out to receive national and foreign tourists and joins together with the city's inhabitants to enjoy four days of intense festivities. During the carnival, Barranquilla's normal activities are paralyzed because the city gets busy with street dances, musical and masquerade parades. Barranquilla's Carnival includes dances such as the Spanish paloteo, African congo[disambiguation needed], 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 a Cultural Masterpiece of the Nation by Colombia's National Congress in 2002.[1] Also the UNESCO, in Paris on November 7, 2003, declared it one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and it was during Olga Lucia Rodriquez Carnival Queen year.

The Carnival starts on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday with the Battle of the Flowers (La Batalla de Flores), which is considered one of the main activities. Then, The Great Parade (La Gran Parada) on Sunday and Monday is marked by an Orchestra Festival with Caribbean and Latin bands. Tuesday signals the end of the carnival, announced by the burial of Joselito Carnaval, who is mourned by everyone.

The Barranquilla Carnival has been claimed to be the second largest carnival in the world, surpassed only by Rio de Janeiro[2]

Barranquilla's Carnival slogan is: Those who live it are those who enjoy it (Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza).


Very little is known about exactly how and why this carnival began, but one thing that's for sure is the carnival has always represented fun and vitality.

There are many theories as to the origin of this carnival; the most popular belief is that the carnival is the welcoming of spring and a celebration of birth and renewal. The carnival originates from a combination of pagan ceremonies, catholic beliefs and ethnic diversity and is a mixture of the European, African and Indian traditions, dances and music. It was at first a holiday for slaves, and grew to be a celebration of the region.

Although the time of the carnivals beginnings cannot be pin pointed, local beliefs date it back three centuries and it is confirmed that a great deal of the traditions were brought to America by the Spanish and Portuguese. The first notable date in the Carnivals history is the year 1888 when a figure known as King Momo appeared and so the documented history of the Carnival begins. Shortly after this time in 1903 the first known battle of the flowers is recorded, apparently to recover long lost carnival tradition. Fifteen years later a Queen was chosen to preside over the festivities of the carnival and in 1923 the Carnival was institutionalised. In the years that followed the carnival grew and so did the traditions, including the integration of the great parade. The year 2002 represents a great milestone for the Carnival of Barranquilla it is declared by the Senate of the Republic National Culture Heritage. Following shortly afterwards in the year 2003 Carnival of Barranquilla is declared by UNESCO a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

  • 1888: King Momo emerges as one of the main characters.
  • 1899: The first President of the Carnival and the first Board of directors were elected.
  • 1903: The first Battle of Flowers parade (Spanish: Batalla de las Flores) takes place. Thanks to Heriberto Bengoechea's initiative in order to recover the carnival tradition of the previous years. Also to celebrate the end of the War of the One Thousand Days ( Spanish: Guerra de los Mil Dias).
  • 1918: The first beauty queen of the carnival is elected and was Alicia Lafaurie Roncallo. The queen is the person in charge of hosting the carnival's ceremonies.
  • 1923: The Carnival is institutionalized from that moment on, since the queen contest was cancelled for 5 years.
  • 1967: A new event is introduced to the carnival,The Great Parade.It takes place on the second day of the carnival, usually on Sundays.
  • 1969: The Orchestra Festival is created, which is a musical competition within the different genres.
  • 1974: The first Guacherna takes place by Esther Forero's initiative. The Guacherna is celebrated in the suburbs.
  • 2002: The Carnival was declared as Cultural Masterpiece of the Nation.
  • 2003: The Carnival of Barranquilla was proclaimed by UNESCO on November 7, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


The carnival queen during the Battle of Flowers.
A Carnival de Barranquilla costume.

The carnival queen is chosen at the end of the previous year so that she has time to prepare herself. The King Momo is also chosen around this time, and whoever is the queen or the king has taken part in the carnival since childhood and is well known for his carnival spirit. Rehearsals for the carnival start several weeks before the Carnival and every Friday of this season is Carnival Friday.

The Carnival Queen presides over the different events until the symbolic burial of Joselito Carnaval (Joseph Carnival). Carnival starts off with the Pre-Carnival activities. The festival officially begins with the Lectura del Bando, which is the traditional reading of the carnival proclamation. Here it is stated that everyone must enjoy themselves, dance, and party wildly. Although the carnival officially starts with this activity, in Barranquilla there is happiness and joy weeks beforehand. The Pre-Carnival activities include the Lectura Del Bando, Toma de la Ciudad (Taking the City), the Crowing of the Carnival Queen and King, the Children's Carnival Procession, and finally, the most important pre-carnival event, La Guacherna. The Guacherna is a night parade of dances, cumbias, and masquerades and takes place the Friday before the Saturday of Carnival.[3]

The Carnival starts on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday with the Battle of the Flowers, which is the most important event of the carnival. The Battle of the Flowers is a traditional float parade featuring the greatest and most colorful creations. There is a six-hour show of floats led by the Carnival Queen, who is followed by folk dances, musicians, dance groups, costumed groups, marchers, disguises and fire breathers. The audience can enjoy all the carnival characters here.

Sunday of Carnival is when the Great Parade takes place. It is considered a day of mask and disguises because floats are not present on this day. Different dance groups compete with one another for the coveted prize of performing in the Battle of the Flowers the following year.

Monday is marked by an Orchestra Festival featuring Caribbean and Latin bands from early afternoon until early Tuesday. The Festival involves various categories and groups that compete for the coveted Golden Congo.[4] The Fantasy Parade is also presented on Monday, and it is a very colorful parade in which all kinds of customs are seen.

Tuesday signals the end of the carnival, culminating in the burial of Joselito Carnaval, who is mourned by everyone. Joselito, a character who symbolizes the joy of the festivities, who had resurrected the Saturday of carnival and dies on the last day tired and hungover to resurrect the following year in the next carnival. Tuesday's parade is shorter than the other parades, and here happy widows participate, crying because of this personage's death. It is like a burial. At night, a funny litany is celebrated with simple lines and its characteristic tone, and current national and international affairs are criticized. The next day is Ash Wednesday, which starts Lent, a 40-day period of religious devotion and abstinence.[5]

All of the carnival events are often broadcast live by regional television channels. The Carnival of Barranquilla is very important for the economy of the entire region. Tourism increases significantly these 4 days, which are holidays in Barranquilla.

For first-time visitors, it is important to note that there are certain customs that should be followed and accepted. During all activities of Carnaval de Berranquilla, corn starch is commonly thrown onto unsuspecting people, primarily into their faces. In addition, bottles of foam are used to shoot people until they are covered in soapy bubbles. Just make sure that when using corn starch and bottles of foam, you avoid contact with people's eyes as people are rarely fond of that. Finally, one of the biggest customs in Barranquilla, and all over Colombia for that matter, is the consumption of Aguardiente. If a colleague of yours offers you a shot, you must accept it as refusing would be considered disrespectful and unappreciative of the person offering. Follow these simple rules and you'll have a good time.

Music and Dancing[edit]

The music consists of a mixture of cumbia, porro, mapale, gaita, chandé, puya, fandango, and fantastic merecumbés. These are examples of many styles of Colombian music. It is a party that gathers up tradition based on the creativity of the Colombian people, and it is expressed by a lot of forms of dancing, music, and by donning different costumes. The Carnaval of Barranquilla is unique because of its cultural diversity and because it is a party in which people are the main protagonists. Every dance, every folkloric group, and every custom plays different roles to make the party the best show on earth.

The Carnaval of Barranquilla is multicultural, diverse, and rich in different cultural expressions.There are traditional dances, choreographic dances; Comparsas (a form of live music), with which the choreography and creativity of dances are expressed; Comedies, like litany are traditional and folkloric popular theater, these are traditional groups that sing in groups ; These can be individual, or collectives, structural, and dramatic.

Costumes and dances[edit]

The Marimondas, which are hooded figures with long noses, floppy ears and bright trousers and vests, are the most popular costume.

Other traditional customs are El Garabato, El Africano, Drácula, El Torito, El Congo, El Monocuco, Los Cabezones, Las Muñeconas, and El Tigrillo. Each costume represents something, and were originated with authenticity, some are based on other costumes around the world but mostly they all have Colombian roots and have a meaning for the barranquilleros specially.[6]

The Carnival´s dances are: La Cumbia, El Garabato, El Son de Negro, El Congo, El Mapalé, El Caiman, El Paloteo, El Gusano, Las Farotas, De Relacion and Las Pilanderas.

"The cumbia, a good example of the fusion of Indian, Black and White elements that simulates a couple courting and is characterized by the elegance and subtle movements of the woman's hips to the rhythm of a drum and flute."[7] Another of the main dances is the Garabato, which represents a mystical battle between life and death. The Congo represents African tradition in its movement and also the memory of slavery in America.[8]

Queens of the Carnaval[edit]

Cristina Felfle as queen in2015.
  • 1918- Alicia Lafaurie Roncallo
  • 1919- Dilia Baena Lavalle
  • 1920- Paulina Sojo
  • 1921- Director y and weekly queens
  • 1922- Rosita Lafaurie
  • 1923- Toña Vengoechea Vives
  • 1924- Isabel Elvira Sojo
  • 1925- Sarita Roncallo
  • 1926- Olga Heilbron Tavera
  • 1927- Rebeca Donado Ucrós
  • 1928- Josefina Vives Ballestas
  • 1929- Consejo de regencia
  • 1930-1934 No queens were elected
  • 1935- Alicia Falquez Grau
  • 1936- Josefina Osio
  • 1937-1941 Town captains were elected
  • 1942- Lolita Obregón Benjumea
  • 1943- Carmiña Navarro Donado
  • 1944- Niní Munárriz Steffens
  • 1945- Judith Blanco de Andréis
  • 1946- Tica Manotas Rodríguez
  • 1947- Ana María Emiliani
  • 1948- Paulina Carbonell Villalba y Gloria Rocaniz Fuenmayor (captains of single and married dance appearances)
  • 1949- Leonor González McCausland
  • 1950- Edith Munárriz Steffens
  • 1951- Cecilia Gómez Nigrinis
  • 1952- Gladys Rosanía
  • 1953- Carolina Manotas
  • 1954- Adelina Segovia
  • 1955- Lucía Ruiz Armenta
  • 1956- Carmiña Moreno Vengoechea
  • 1957- Margarita Angulo
  • 1958- Vilma Escolar Nieto
  • 1959- Marvel Luz Moreno
  • 1960- Lilia Arévalo Duncan
  • 1961- Edith Ulloque
  • 1962- Julieta Devis Pereira
  • 1963- Martha Ligia Restrepo
  • 1964- Carmen Vergara Vengoechea
  • 1965- Lucy Abuchaibe
  • 1966- Josefina Martínez Armenta
  • 1967- Martha Luz Vásquez
  • 1968- Rocío García Bossa
  • 1969- Luz Elena Restrepo
  • 1970- Ligia Salcedo
  • 1971- Clarissa Lafaurie
  • 1972- Margarita Rosa Donado
  • 1973- Fedora Escolar
  • 1974- Vicky de Andréis
  • 1975- Regina Margarita Sojo
  • 1976- Katia González Ripoll
  • 1977- Nohora Aduén Lafaurie
  • 1978- Patricia Abello Marino
  • 1979- Thelma García Méndez (quit)
  • 1979- Esther (Tey) Cecilia Cadena Buitrago
  • 1980- Ana María Donado
  • 1981- Silvana González Martelo
  • 1982- Mireya Caballero
  • 1983- Luz Marina Rincón
  • 1984- Flavia Santoro
  • 1985- Luz Marina Atehortúa
  • 1986- Silvia Tcherassi
  • 1987- Maribel Fernández De Castro
  • 1988- Margarita Gerlein Villa
  • 1989- Laura Char Carson
  • 1990- María José Vengoechea Devis
  • 1991- Liliana Gerlein Villa
  • 1992- Brigitte Abuchaibe
  • 1993- Claudia Dangond Lacouture
  • 1994- Danitza Abuchaibe Costa
  • 1995- Katia Nule Marino
  • 1996- María Cecilia Donado García
  • 1997- María Alicia Gerlein Arana
  • 1998- Liliana Hoyos Sánchez
  • 1999- Julia Carolina de la Rosa Valiente
  • 2000- Claudia Patricia Guzmán Certain
  • 2001- Ilse Margarita Cuello Gieseken
  • 2002- María Gabriela Diago García
  • 2003- Margarita Lora Gerlein
  • 2004- Olga Lucía Rodríguez Pérez
  • 2005- Kathy Flesch Guinovart
  • 2006- María Isabel Dávila Clavijo
  • 2007- Daniella Donado Visbal
  • 2008- Angie De la Cruz Yepes
  • 2009- Marianna Schlegel Donado
  • 2010- Giselle Marie Lacouture Paccini
  • 2011- Marcela Dávila Márquez
  • 2012- Andrea Jaramillo Char
  • 2013- Daniela Cepeda Tarud
  • 2014- María Margarita Diazgranados Gerlein
  • 2015- Cristina Felfle Fernández de Castro
  • 2016- Marcela García Caballero
  • 2017- Stephanie "Fefi" Mendoza

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Historia y Origen". Fundacion Carnaval de Barranquilla. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  2. ^ 0
  3. ^ "Colombia Contact". Colombia Contact. Retrieved 20 March 2011. [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ es:Carnaval de barranquilla
  5. ^ es:Carnaval de barranquilla
  6. ^ "Carnaval de Barranquilla". Fundacion Carnval de Barranquilla. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Barranquilla Carnival: The Most Colorful Carnival in the World". Colombia Travel. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Barranquilla Carn ival, History and Tradition of a Town". Virtual Andean Tourist Routes. Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 10°57′50″N 74°47′47″W / 10.96389°N 74.79639°W / 10.96389; -74.79639