A Magical Carnival

“Quien lo Vive es Quien lo Goza” A Magical Carnival

I was born and raised in Barranquilla; the coastal city that hosts the Carnival – one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity –, and a primary inspiration for my emotional expression, art and creativity.

Growing up in the Caribbean coast offered me a childhood surrounded by music, colors, creativity, and passionately artistic people. Barranquilla is an interesting society to analyze, as many claim it as the Happy Capital and its citizens as the happiest people in Colombia.

I sense that Barranquilla gave me a unique vision of taste and aesthetics in all fields of arts, especially the importance of connecting with others, their emotions and feelings and enriching from them.

Every January Barranquilla is floated by the sound of drums and flutes, which anticipate the arrival of the “pre-carnaval” parades. Mid January the Bando reading arrives, accompanied by a street dancing parade, celebrating the official start of the Carnival.


The most iconic parade is the “Batalla de Flores” literally a war of colors, flowers, beauty and peace. The streets become a vibrant stage for African and indigenous dances and the music of the “millo” groups. Colorful shinning customs liven up characters as the “Monocuco” “Marimonda”, “Congo” and “Toritos” that beautifully decorate the streets.

Is mandatory to understand that the first rule of this Carnival, is that it has NO rules.  The Carnival is a non-stop dancing, consisting of cumbias, garabatos, mapales, puyas, fandangos and many more folkloric dances without leaving aside, the diversity of crafts and disguises, with ornamented hats and animal masks. Everyone shall dance till the physical body is totally consumed up, and the heart only evokes the joy of life.


After four days of intense partying, Joselito the Carnival’s key figure dies. He will be mourned and buried symbolically by the Carnival queen and happy widows who shared the party with him. Hence, the Carnival comes to an end.

The Carnival’s origin dates back three centuries, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived with their Catholic festivities on the American continent. It was a cultural fusion combining Aboriginal ceremonies, the musical heritage of African slaves, and the festivities that came from the old world, creating a melting pot of festivities.


At the end of the nineteenth century, first appeared the “King Momo” in the Carnival of Barranquilla, who was characterized as a mocking character, ironic, with a dark humor and a little cruel. “El Momo” was the son of the dream and the night and was present at the parties of the madmen, in the towns and cities. Then he became the protector of all those who gave themselves up to the festivities, the scandal, the vice and excesses.

History narrates that up to the year 1876 the Carnival was made official. All the barranquilleros, including myself up until today feel honored for this historical festivity. Can’t wait to fully enliven my Carnival spirit together with a YALAcollective group.

by Carolina Daza

Have a look to our YALAjourney in Colombia       

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