Arts & Entertainment

Uruguay’s traditional Llamadas parade celebrates 300 years of Montevideo

By Lucia Serrano Redondo

Montevideo, Feb 9 (EFE).- Drums, flags and dancing launched the first night of the traditional Llamadas parade, the highlight of the Uruguayan Carnival, which this year began with a special show to commemorate the 300 years of the founding of Montevideo.

From the time of slavery to the colors of the LGBT+ movement, through the beginnings of tango, nearly 300 members of the Mundo Afro organization gave the public a tour through the three centuries of the Uruguayan capital’s history.

The sidewalks and balconies in the Sur and Palermo neighborhoods were filled with hundreds of people eager to enjoy the start of the longest carnival in the world, which runs for about 40 days across January-March.

While children threw foam and streamers, 22 comparsas – or performance groups – marched down Isla de Flores street in a competition in which the 23 that will parade on Sunday also participated.

“Opening the parade is a tremendous challenge and involves a lot of cordiality and unity, but it is also very healthy to reflect on what was experienced here in the past,” the director of the Mundo Afro Candombe School, Álvaro Salas, told EFE.

He said that his organization did not take part in the contest because they understand that “art is not a competition” and recalled that Montevideo candombe – music made with marching drums – was recognized by Unesco as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In this sense, a member of the Candonga Africana troupe – last year’s winner and in charge of opening the contest, Lorena Luján, pointed out that the Llamadas parade is “very important” for the culture of candombe.

She also expressed her desire to win the title of champion again this year: “Hopefully we can repeat.”

The Mundo Afro Candombe School’s Salas said he felt “happy” but “tired” since he is in charge of directing all the participants of the school, who paraded Friday night and will do so again on Sunday under the high summer temperatures, following the end of the first heatwave of the season.

The heat was increased by the bonfires that the troupes lit to heat the wood of their drums and make them rumble with a higher pitched sound.

The soaring temperatures recorded on Friday afternoon were quelled by light rainfall that turned into storms on Saturday and forced the second part of the parade to be moved to Sunday.

“For us, when we play the drums, we reflect very strongly on our ancestors. That is what the Llamadas consist of,” said Salas.

He explained that candombe settled in Uruguay thanks to the Black population descended from the slaves who came from Africa during the colonial era.

The Mundo Afro representative said he was grateful for the presence of a delegation from the Angolan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, given that visits from African countries are “pleasant and very important” because they are about their ancestors.

They have also had visitors from other African countries in past years since there is increasing interest in candombe, a rhythm that, according to Salas, is now very different from what it was in its origins.

“Where we are located is where everything is born. Montevideo was a slave port and from here those original touches (of drums) were extrapolated,” he said. EFE


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