Blacks and Whites' Carnival

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Carnaval de Negros y Blancos!
Pasto 20060106 001.jpg
RegionSouth America
Inscription history
Unesco Cultural Heritage logo.svg
Blacks and Whites' Carnival
Carnaval de Negros y Blancos!
Official nameCarnaval de Negros y Blancos!
Also calledCarnavales de Pasto (Pasto's Carnivals)
Observed byPastusos and southern Colombians
TypeLocal, historical & cultural
SignificanceCelebration of Blacks' Holiday and Whites' Day (formerly Epiphany)
CelebrationsCarnavalito (Children's Carnival), Arrival of the Castañeda Family, Blacks' Day, Whites' Day & Great parade
Begins2 January
Ends7 January
Related toCarnival of Viareggio

Blacks and Whites' Carnival (Spanish: Carnaval de Negros y Blancos), is the largest carnival celebration in south Colombia, its geographical indication belongs to the city of Pasto.[1] It is celebrated from January 2nd to the 7th of each year and attracts a considerable number of Colombian and foreign tourists.

On 30 September 2009, this Carnival was proclaimed by UNESCO, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.[2]



Great Parade, 6 January 2007

Strictly speaking, the modern carnival, arise at the dawn of an Epiphany day on 6 January 1912, based on the need to express imagination, play, friendship and sharing the joy that around that time of the year revives. In a fine and exclusive brothel in the city, the House of the Misses Robby located in the Calle Real (Royal Street, current 25th Carrera), was the place where the audacity of Don Angel Maria Lopez Zarama, renowned tailor of the city, leads him to take the French face powder of one of the most requested ladies and proceeds to gently spread the powder and some woman's perfume among all those present with the slogan ¡Vivan los Blanquitos! (live the Whiteys!). Soon, the companions of the master cutter and victims of the powder, join the game. Then, everyone would go out to repeat the joke with the unsuspecting parishioners exiting the Kings' Mass from the nearby church of San Juan Bautista, repeating: ¡Que vivan los Negros y que vivan los Blancos! (here live the Blacks and here live the Whites!)[3] that expression under the custody of Galeras was inserted with force and forever into the essence of Pasto.

Comparsa prepared for a parade, 6 January 2008.

However, other cultures and expressions have contributed to the formation of the intricate identity of Pasto's Carnival festivities. This fact characterizes and differentiates it between similar expressions.

Its genesis is also rooted in the rituals performed by the Quillacingas, an agrarian culture, which, at harvest time danced honoring the moon and prayed to the sun, asking protection for their crops.

Whites' day players, January 2007.

These ancestral celebrations, with the merger and influence of Spanish culture, give rise to syncretism Hispanic-religious, generating early expressions of what will be the Carnaval of Pasto. In the early 19th century, the colonial authorities banned the holidays to prevent Indian uprisings, by 1834 Indian festivals reappear with churumbeles, mestizos with masquerades and hullabaloo of neighbors mostly, of course all these parties properly framed in the religious calendar, mainly with the festivities of the Virgin of Mercy (24 September) and Immaculate Conception (8 December).

In those times, on the eve of the Epiphany also performed spontaneously festive the blackies' game, mainly between whites and mestizos, because of the scarcity of black people in Pasto, the holiday contrasted the extroversion of a community marked by a peaceful and taciturn life, who had in those days an opportunity to break the rules and release the spirit.

The blackie game origin was a blacks' "asueto" (holiday), originated in the Great Cauca, old region to which belonged Pasto. In 1607 there was a slave rebellion in Remedios, Antioquia, which caused panic among the colonial authorities. This event was remembered by the large black population in Popayán who demanded a day of rest in which they would be truly free. To preserve social peace, the Spanish Crown granted to this end the 5 January:

"THE PRINCE, DAY OFF FOR BLACK SLAVES. Now understanding the relationship and request of many black slaves in that province, have come to tell you that paternally hosts the request and will be granted a day off entirely to blacks and will be on 5 January, the eve of the feasts of the Holy Majesties and venerating with regard the Holy Majesty of the Black King. Dated in Madrid." I the Prince.[4]

Blacks' day player, 5 January 2007.

That news was announced by proclamation in Popayán and thus was 5 January declared free day for people of color, the black population of the capital of Cauca took to the streets dancing to African music and began to paint the famous black-white walls of that town. Later this custom was watered to the south, taking an unusual strength in the cold city of Pasto, where the chronicler José Maria Córdoba Moure, said that there are traces of it was played as early as 1854.

This is how was configured the genesis of Blacks and Whites' game in Pasto, and that way would pass its first decade, yet lacking the inclusion of other arts, as the Great Parade of the floats, the comparsas and murgas, which would gradually will be joining the celebration, to enrich and shape the identity of this peculiar carnival.


Side view of Pachá Carnaval in the Great Parade, 6 January 2006.

It wasn't until the mid-1920s when the actual celebration was acquiring its corpus, which merge other instances, dates and places, giving it a more urban and inclusive style. On 6 January 1926, senior students from the high schools and the University of Nariño decided to participate actively in the party, choosing as his queen to Romelia Martinez, and go out through the streets dressed in carnival costumes and dancing to the regional music. That was the first real Parade not of traditional Epiphany but Whites' Day.

By 4 January 1929, a cavalcade of over a hundred riders preparing to cheer up the Blacks (5) and Whites' (6) game, for it had been concentrated near the Boyaca Battalion. At three p.m. when the riders were ready for the parade, a whole family arrived, there was the father, the mother, two girls, two boys, three young men who rode tired nags and who were followed by laborers whom herded the mules charged with trunks, and trying the pigs and sheep did not disband. That people was loaded with lugging cages with parrots and monkeys, not to mention the "mica"(pot). The father was an Antioqueño settler traveling with all his family, who after spending many years in the east (Putumayo Department), had decided to leave the jungle to return to "civilized" earth .

Alfredo Torres and Carlos Martínez Arellano Madroñero, parade organizers, ordered, two of the ride to open countryside and no shorts or lazy included the tired travelers among the cavalcade. Those who came from the east were joyful by this unexpected encounter and ignoring why so animated "bumper" were placed at the center of the parade, and surrounded by the riders in the process of promoting the carnival. The head of the family greeted the crowds who witnessed the passage of the ride.

Arrival of the Castañeda Family, 4 January 2007.

Then, the historic shout echoed through the city: Viva la Famila Castañeda (Hurray to Castañeda Family!) That was invention of Torres Arellano, worthy of his talent, and passed into posterity as a new and original sign joy. The settler and his people paraded happy and excited, through the streets of the city. The unexpected passengers received the cheers of thousands of Pastusos along roads, squares and avenues of the capital of Nariño.[5] At the end of the parade, members of the Castañeda Family asked to his new friends to accompany them to the Hotel Paris where they would stay. The hotel was located in the Calle Real (Royal Street), where now stands the "Zuchín" building at 25th Carrera between 17th and 18th Streets.

Other versions said the Castañeda family characterized in the comparsas on 4 January is also a cartoon of Bucheli Ayerbe family, one of whose members Don Julian Bucheli Ayerbe, became the first governor of Nariño, at the break of the 20th century.

Until the advent of Carnavalito (Children's Carnival), the parade of the Castañeda family would become the opening of the Carnival. The decades of the 1930s and 1940s watched a structured Carnival, and before the advent of the first heavy industries, acquires presence and prominence folk art, particularly the creative expression of the artisans represented in monumental paper sculptures, just like mobile motorized scenarios built on trucks, the famous floats.


In the 1950s, the Mayor's office began to reward the best comparsas and murgas

In the 1950s, the figures of the main floats acquired movement, and thanks to the work of the Master artisan Alfonso Zambrano began a new era of splendor. During this time, beginning the Mayor of Pasto (sometimes with participation of the Government of Nariño) to take control and organization of the festivities, especially the appropriation of resources to fund the awards for best floats, which were extended soon to the comparsas and murgas.

In the late 1960s started the search and recruitment of national and international commercial orchestras, the most famous were Venezuelan Los Melódicos, Billo's Caracas Boys and Ecuadorian Medardo and his Players. In that years, Luis Quenguan was the first cameraman, who made a record in film (black and white) of 8 mm, Super 8 and 16 mm of the Carnivals.[6] In 1966, thanks to Don Mario Fernando Rodriguez, arises in the Bolivar neighborhood, the Carnavalito, or Children's Carnival, this autonomous party will take at least a decade in joining the official program.


Tinkunni winner float of 2008 Great Parade

With the arrival of the Pan-American Highway in the 1970s and the greater inclusion of Pasto in the Colombian economy, the Carnival was renewed with the presence of new trends in materials handling, new rhythms and a growing stream cultural advocated by the rediscovery of the Quillacingas roots following with the activism in the Great Parade or Whites' Day. Was at that time that the floats were filled with figures and references to various social demands of the Pastusos. Anyway, in those years was made the first color footage of the parade on 6 January, again in charge of Master Luis Quenguan.[6]

For the 1980s, the multiplicity of cultural trends around the Carnival and the yuppie style highlights the need for creating a strong Corporation to assume the planning, organizing and executing of this event. It was planned that the institution had involvement of both the City of Pasto, as industrial and commercial sector, artisans and of course, the academics from the region.

In this decade the populations near Pasto, began to assemble their own carnivals, some ephemeral as Greens' Carnival in the city of Ipiales (now Carnival of the Frontier) and other more durable as the Reds's Carnival in the city of Buesaco. The predominant note is that throughout the southwestern region of Colombia, became widespread festivities that coincided with the end of year celebrations that took borrowed elements of the now popular Blacks and Whites' Carnival.

This reality has two attempts for establishment of an institution to ensure the preservation of the feasts of Pasto, but efforts of the mid-1980s, and the start of the 1990s, were not fruitful because the various sectors involved don't agree, it will be the Mayor of Pasto, which still managed the festival through a special Undersecretary's Office called the Carnival Office, this office began to concern about the loss of identity of Blacks and Whites' Carnival, mainly with the massive introduction of the Ecuadorian canned foam. Was at this time of upheaval, which massifies the use of the now traditional expression: ¡Viva Pasto, Carajo! (Hurray Pasto, Carajo!)

21st century[edit]

Finally, in November 2001, by Law No 706, Blacks and Whites' Carnival was declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation by the Colombian Congress[1] and with such declaration, took priority the construction of the Plaza of Carnival and Culture, signaling the Senda del Carnaval (Carnival Path) and the creation of the Corpocarnaval (Carnival Corporation) as an entity of private law, associative, with mixed participation, for non-profit and common good, providing adequate and proper conduct of Carnival, which rescues as: "a transverse cultural playful expression in the urban context".[7] Therefore, one of its first tasks was the creation of the Museo del Carnaval (Carnival Museum).

With these achievements, began a new era of this event, characterized by the planning, organization, dissemination, research and modernization, taking priority the promotion of culture and addressing controversial issues like whether or not to negotiate the broadcast rights for radio, television and internet. Now, the Blacks and Whites' Carnival have been officially included in government plans of the municipality of Pasto, but managed by an autonomous office, which had as main project, its recognition and accreditation with the international community and agencies such as the Unesco, definitively introducing these celebrations in the globalized world, such as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This goal was finally achieved on 30 September 2009.[8]

Carnival Stages[edit]

Pachá Carnaval, winning float of Great Parade of 2006, entering the Carnival Plaza

The carnival includes four major stages: the Carnavalito (Children's Carnival), the Arrival of the Castaneda Family, Blacks' Day and Whites' Day with the Grand Parade (this being the most important day for its beauty). However, it's necessary to consider the pre-carnival activities and in recent years, 7 January is considered another carnival day for Remate (Finish) with the celebration of the "Cuy's festival" when locals and tourists delight the typical dish of the region.[9]


In Colombia, end of year festivities include an extended period, starting 7 December with the celebration of the eve of the traditional feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary or "Día de las Velitas", continuing by the celebration of the traditional Novena (16 to 24 December) and the CatholicChristmas, which tends to be extended until the feast of Epiphany or 6 January.

Within this context eminently festive, many secular celebrations are considered a preface to Blacks and Whites' Carnival, and in the city of Pasto is mainly performed on 28 December (All Fools' Day) and 31 (New Year's Eve).

Fools' Day (28 December)[edit]

The All Fools' Day presents a dubious water game so-called Water Carnival
Water Carnival

On 28 December, day of the Holy Innocents some Pastusos play with water in what may be considered a prelude to the January holidays, imitating carnival customs of the neighboring country of Ecuador where the Carnival of Quito (February or March) is characterized by the use of water fun. What was initially a day to do tricks, practical jokes, and spread hoaxes on the unwary, became a questionable game with water based in the desire to tease or surprise the unsuspecting, innocent pedestrians soaking them completely.

This custom is not fully accepted and enjoyed, especially when the average temperature of the city hardly exceeds 13° Celsius (55° Fahrenheit). Although the authorities have sought to control through bans to waste water, the most practical solution to combat this phenomenon has found by EMPOPASTO (Pasto Water Company), that day used to perform maintenance work on its two networks, cutting off water supplies throughout the urban area of the municipality, like a big practical joke on the players.

Moreover, since the late twentieth century are advanced alternative activities that seek to provide the public recreation and culture without losing the carnival sense on 28 December among them are the innocent tour and the rainbow on the asphalt.

Rainbow in the Asphalt

In 1996, as a cultural and ecological alternative to the water carnival and collecting student initiatives from to the Arts Department of the University of Nariño, establishing the proposed "Rainbow in the Asphalt". Through art and using the imagination, with the color of chalk on the gray concrete inviting to recover urban space and regain the sense of carnival and celebration. So the pre-carnival in general, has changed, which seek to keep the festive spirit through art, creating a new attitude to the festival and the city.

New Year's Eve Puppets (31 December)[edit]

Figure of New Year's Eve being burned.

The 31 December of each year, Pasto streets are filled with dolls or puppets made from old clothes, paper and sawdust (formerly gunpowder) to represent the old year which will end at midnight when they are burned in a ritual with remote and deep meanings. From earlier in the day, kids who go to eager passersby with money requests such as "alms for the old year, please" and "widows" usually represented by men transdressed with dark veils aid request for "decent burial or cremation" of the "deceased year", after midnight. The main event of the day with crowd participation is a competition of the puppets are paraded through the main streets usually represent political allegory, in which year the dying leaves in a "testament" full of ironies, summarizing all that has shown relevant in that year for the city and country. The creators of the best puppets, receive cash prizes.

Thus ensuring a healthy and dignified spectacle. The winning design is burned in the Plaza del Carnaval at the end of that day, amid the popular festivities which usually organize the municipal authorities to receive the new year, and may in fact at that time the city begins to be invaded with playful and cathartic spirit of near carnival.

Starting in 2006, was banned the sale of Christmas gunpowder in the city, as established by Decree 0207 April 2005 as Mayor of Pasto and Corpocarnaval are the only entities authorized to organize events with fireworks to welcome the new year.


Tribute to the Virgin of Mercy, Colonies Parade, and Rock Day (2 January)[edit]

From 2000, 2 January was added as an official day into the traditional Carnival programing, with several new acts:

Tribute to Our Lady of The Marcy

The Virgin of Mercy or "Our Lady of The Marcy", is Governess of "La Ciudad Sorpresa" (The Surprise City, nickname of Pasto). Traditionally celebrated on 24 September, now She receives offerings of flowers and serenades from the nearby farmers, in exchange for her blessing on the new year.

Colonies Parade
Dancers form Ancuya

Full of representations of community residents from other parts of the region or elsewhere in the country. Each with its own identity, the Colonies Parade is an opportunity to showcase the symbols that form part of the intrinsic character of each one.


Pastorock is an event for the development of alternative music: Blues, Rock en Español, Pop, Funk, Ska and Heavy metal. The permanence of this event for several years in the program has encouraged the emergence of products that combine rock and traditional music inspirations giving birth to new rhythms such as "Son Sureño Punk" and "Metal Pastuso".

The Carnavalito (Children's Carnival) (3 January)[edit]

Children's Carnival, 3 January 2009.

3 January is the day of Carnavalito. What began as a game of children imitating their elders, recreating the Whites' day parade, has become an event with an identity and dynamic of its own within the Blacks and Whites' festivities, with strong popular roots and support from the authorities.

From about 40 years ago, in the morning of this day, children have made their own parade of mini-floats, designed and developed by them, in what is an initiation into elaborating floats and street allegories. Over time, the game has changed in parallel with physical and intellectual growth of the small artisans and players, whom at adulthood will participate in the Great Parade of 6 January.

Song to the Earth & Choreographic Collectives

A recent evening parade also takes place on 3 January: it's a tribute to andino sense, the mother land, and ancestral memory, with large groups of musicians and dancers. Previously all of them marched in the White's Day within the floats, now only winners of this parade win the right of participate in the Great Parade. It ends in a choreography of brotherhood and a great concert of Latin American music in the Liberty Stadium.

Arrival of the Castañeda Family (4 January)[edit]

Comparsa of Barbers, Castañeda family, 4 January 2007.

The traditional parades of the Carnival of Pasto begin commemorating the arrival of the Castañeda Family on 4 January. As stated, the historical tradition indicates that celebrates the arrival of a family of colorful characters who came to Pasto from El Encano or from the east of the country (Putumayo) in 1929. Although their fate is unknown, it is also suggested that they were on pilgrimage to the Las Lajas south of the department of Nariño.

In any case, the characters in this family group, are represented and recreated in the stop of this day as a cartoon family that travels with all his luggage and kitchen utensils to prepare food anywhere in the path and is usually represented with its most picturesque or characteristic things, including the flamboyant grandmother, daughter ready to get married in white but with visible signs of pregnancy and mischievous children (usually characterized adults) who are in trouble with their nannies. It doesn't lack the troupe of "burlesque girls" who usually are men transdressed and finally the drunk priest.

The parade can not miss country dance groups and the ñapangas, disguised and authentic, whose picture is linked to the carnival in general.

Blacks' Day (5 January)[edit]

At 5 January, The people play in the streets with black cosmetic.

5 January is devoted to Blacks' Day. This day marks the date when African slaves were free to indulge their playful outbursts, the people play and dance in the streets to paint in black themselves, using cosmetic creams made for this purpose, but also use polishes and siliconed black paint. The motto of that day is: ¡Que vivan los Negros! (Hurray the Blacks!)

By tradition, the Queen of Carnival travels through the city in a convoy, delivering cosmetic and inviting VIPs tourist to join the game under the phrase: ¡Una pintica por favor! (A pintica, please!) which was used in the early days of Carnival.

The importance of this day is all urban Pastusos, vented their repressed desires, since the cosmetic serves like a mask and at the same time to homogenize all social classes and ethnic groups as one great family settled on the slopes of Taita Urcunina.

Throughout the day, many orchestras presents in various city parks (tradition adopted in the 1960s) and the local media (radio and TV) are devoted to visiting the various artisan workshops in order to discover the figures which decorate the floats for Whites' Day Great Parade.

Whites' Day (6 January)[edit]

Great Parade float, 6 January 2006.
With talc is performed the Whites' Game

On 6 January this city no longer celebrates the Epiphany, but Whites' Day or Great Parade. In contrast to the previous day, on this date, pastusos are painted white generally with talc fragrant, being used very little flour, cream or cosmetic paints.

The main attraction, as well as popular festivals in the squares and streets of the city, is the Grand Parade of nearly 7 km long on a path of about 15 km, running through the streets of downtown, the Plaza del Carnaval (Carnival Plaza) and some of the avenues of the periphery by the so-called Senda del Carnaval (Carnival Path). The majority of citizens and thousands of tourists and visitors crowd the streets to witness this parade, cheering and throwing confetti or streamers to the participants, all dancing to traditional and typical songs, such as the famous The Guaneña, El Trompo Sarandengue, The Southern Son, Chambú, Agualongo and the obligatory Sandoná materpiece of bandsman Jorge Mideros; also are performed sayas and generally unpublished Andean compositions that premiere each year. The motto of that day is: ¡Que vivan los Blancos! (Hurray the Whites!) And in recent years has become inevitable to hear the exclamation ¡Viva Pasto, Carajo! (Hurray Pasto, Carajo!), pronounced by locals as well by tourists.

Great Parade (6 January)[edit]

The Great Parade consists of:

MurgaLa Bomboná before starting the Great Parade, January 2005.
  • Individual costumes
  • Comparsas: costumed groups of artists dancing and traveling on the streets.
  • Murgas: groups of several dozen musicians.
  • Mini-floats: Up to 20 x 40 feet high, moved by hand traction or by bicycle.
  • Floats: Up to 50 x 65 feet long, taken up by trucks or trailers, where troupes made up of tourists who pay the right of way for participating in them, carry a costume that identifies each carriage. These massive structures are characterized by large rolling allegorical figures or caricatures with articulated movement (forward deployed by the Master Alfonso Zambrano), by design, finishing and complexity can become true works of art. This part of the parade is led by carnival queen in her own float (out of competition).
Murga La Bomboná at the end of the Great Parade, January 2004. (Note the talc in their costumes.)

The time to build a float for artisans is approximately 4 months due to the complexity of designs and motifs as well as its finished. In preparing the floats and masks or face shields, used the techniques of paper mache and pasteboard, to which in recent years have added the use of fiberglass thermoforming technique and polymer light, which are used in the preparation of designs and motifs characteristic arising from popular imagery, local myths, the social claims and stories that are part of the pastusa culture.

The event culminates with the awards to participants in the parade by the local government and Corpocarnaval. The originality and quality of such expressions is evaluated by a national panel of experts (sometimes international), with knowledge in visual arts and to ensure not only fairness but winning the Float than is the most colorful and representative of the carnival.

Rural Culture & Cuy's Festival (7 January)[edit]

This day is devoted to Remate (Finish) the Carnival with the celebration of "Cuy's day" when locals and tourists delight the typical dish of the region, also many of them visit the near Guamuez Lake, and Obonuco and Catambuco rural fairs.

The Artisans or Carnival Cultores[edit]

Carnival Artist or Artisan, Roberto Otero's workshop, 2006
Carnival Artist or Artisan, Hugo Moncayo's workshop, 2007

The term "Carnival Cultores" is a neologism in evolution that links the terms "Culture" and "Actors", and identified in the first place to the traditional "Carnival Artisans", but wanted to be extend to other people participating in parades through other modalities.

Traditionally has been used the word artisan to describe first, the creators of the floats, ignoring their families and partners involved in the preparation of the figures of Great Parade. However, various sectors support this word must be replaced by "Cultores" or "Carnival Artists", not only for being more inclusive, but also due to the professional and artistic value of work performed into finishing floats.

Currently the Carnival Cultores are organized into two major associations: Asoarca and Caminantes del Carnaval (Carnival Walkers), the first one comprises mainly the creators of the floats, while the second belong to partipantes in walking patterns.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Colombian Senate (26 November 2001). "Law 706 of 2001" (in Spanish). Colombian Senate. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  2. ^ UNESCOPRESS (30 September 2009). "Press Release No. 2009-105". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  3. ^ More at Zarama de la Espriella, Germán; Muñoz Cordero Lydia Inés, "Blacks and Whites' Carnival" (in Spanish), Pasto, Corporación Autonoma de los Carnavales del Municipio de Pasto, 1992.
  4. ^ Benavides Rivera, Neftalí, "Blackie game origins" (in Spanish), Revista Cultura Nariñense, Vol. 2, No. 18, Pasto, diciembre de 1969, p. 43.
  5. ^ Benavides Rivera, Naphtali, "Kar A. Melo points (Old Pasto Stamps)" (in Spanish), Pasto, Tipografia Javier, 1983, p. 25.
  6. ^ a b Viztaz Taller de la imagen (2003). "Senior Photographer Luis Quenguán" (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 September 2009.[dead link]
  7. ^ Corpocarnaval (2003). "Corpocarnaval Philosophy, Carnival Conceptual Motto" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 6 January 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  8. ^ UNESCO (30 September 2009). "Carnaval de Negros y Blancos". UNESCO. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  9. ^ Corpocarnaval (2007). "Blacks and Whites' Press Kit" (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 September 2009.[dead link]

External links[edit]