Colombia’s Barranquilla carnival begins with 120-year old battle of flowers
By Hugo Penso Correa
Barranquilla, Colombia, Feb 18 (EFE).- A massive parade with thousands of musicians and dancers called the battle of flowers, marking the event’s 120th anniversary, on Saturday kicked off the Barranquilla carnival, Colombia’s most popular and oldest street festival.
Theater personalities in traditional attire onboard special floats, music, dances, performances and visual arts reaffirming the identity of Barranquilla and its folk culture were the main theme of the parade, that dates back to the end of the Thousand Days’ War in the early 20th century, the bloodiest civil war in Colombia’s history.
Under a scorching sun – with the temperature rising above 36 degrees Celsius at noon – over 15,000 participants joined the over-five hour long procession, while around 400,000 spectators swayed to the different rhythms of music being played and performed.
A total of 73 folk groups, 60 costume groups including individual and group parties, especially dressed “queens” of the carnival riding 18 floats and live orchestras playing atop 20 wagons entertained the viewers, packed on balconies and footpaths.
Andres, a dancer of the Marimondas de Barrio Abajo dance troupe – which performs one of the most recognizable traditional dances of the carnival – said that he had been dancing in the parade since his childhood because his father used to bring him along when he danced himself at the festival.
“We are more than 1,000 marimondas (dancers) and most of us work in our regular jobs and professions during the rest of the year, but in February, the most important thing for us is to prepare for the carnival,” Andres said as he hydrated himself before moving on with the procession.
“These costumes are striking and a lot of people call us up to take photos with them,” said Natalia, a university student, who takes a break during the carnival to join the festivities like many other locals.
To mark the 120th anniversary of the battle of the flowers, this year the organizers have divided the parade in five blocks that display moments in the history of the festival and the city, ending the exhibition with a plaque declaring the carnival as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The battle of flowers is the most emblematic and representative parade of the Barranquilla carnival, established in 1903 by general Heriberto Vengoechea to mark the end of the Thousand Days’ War, an event that marked Barranquilla’s spot in world history as an innovative and peaceful city full of zest.
Massive floats or carriages, mobile art installations built by artisans for months with techniques passed down the generations = along with designers of the carnival’s float manufacturing unit – are some of the major attractions of the festival. EFE