Carnival is in the air!
Carnival, a worldwide celebration loved by Uruguayans!
As January gets to an end, everyone starts feeling Carnival closer and closer. Its origin dates back to Roman Catholic traditions that occured before Lent, and it was brought to Latin America by Spanish conquerors.
It’s a party everywhere! Although you might have heard mainly about Río de Janeiro’s big three-day Carnival, we want to help you immerse into the Carnival traditions from Uruguay:
People started celebrating Carnival, which is a festive season prior to Lent when the Spanish came to South America. It was considered an event in which freedom took place. During Carnival, Montevidean black slaves were allowed to walk to the city walls wearing their colorful tunics. There they could sing and dance their music”. In the 19th century some of the traditions imported from Spain were: throwing buckets of water from the balconies and windows, throwing not only eggs but oat, fruits and vegetables, and others. People would have lots of fun. But in 1885 a newspaper reported that most of the houses in Montevideo had broken windows because of this!!
The word “comparsas” is given to the groups of black people who dance and sing, and play the drums. In the XIX the first contests took place in the main square. “Comparsas” would perform and then a jury would vote on the best. Nowadays these contests continue. There are wonderful parades across the main streets of the city where numerous “comparsas”, dancers, drummers and others, wearing amazingly colorful costumes and make-up would perform. The music they play is called “Candombe”. Click to listen: Candombe Uruguay Mi Morena Ensayo 17 Nov 2013
These are groups of white people that want to celebrate Carnival as well so they would paint their bodies black and dance and sing the same way black people do, in a very respectful way.
By the end of the 19th century the first groups of “murgas” appeared. “Murgas” are humorists that dance, play different instruments and sing songs about current affairs, politics, economy and so on. These groups are one of the most important parts of the celebration nowadays. During February they play every single night in different theaters, clubs and outdoor stages. You can pay for a ticket and see the shows of several “murgas” every night. They are funny and some of them are now so popular that they tour around different countries performing their songs.
Check this out, this “murga” is called Agarrate Catalina, unfortunately there are no subtitles! But at least you can see what the performance looks like!:
Want to know more about Uruguay? Check this post about Uruguay’s summer destinations!