For those who keep it, Lent is far from being the most pleasant time of the year – being deprived of your favorite foods or other indulgences is no small sacrifice for many. This is why carnival season, right before Lent begins, is a time of revelry and self-indulgence, so that people can have one last blast before staying away from all the fun for a while. At least, this was the original purpose of the carnival, but today it’s a great opportunity to party weather you’re religious or not. Some of the biggest and most vibrant carnivals take place in South America, with the Rio as the uncrowned queen of them all. But the Rio carnival is far from being the only one, so if you find yourself somewhere on the continent during the upcoming months, check out some of the best carnivals in South America.
Montevideo Carnival, Uruguay
In the 18th century, countless slaves from different parts of Africa were brought to Uruguay to work the lands of wealthy families. One of the few times a year when they were allowed a little freedom and fun was the carnival, which eventually incorporated elements of Bantu and Angolan culture. The canival is a fun and dazzling affair with two colorful parades, and costumes inspired by European and African traditions. The Montevideo parade is growing in popularity and more and more tourists come to attend.
Carnaval de Oruro, Bolivia
This Bolivian carnival is less about drinking and partying (although these activities are not neglected either) and more about celebrating Bolivian culture through a variety of dances, parades and traditions that blend christian and indigenous beliefs. The main even of the carnival is the Diablada, a dancing procession of people dressed up in devil costumes and masks.
Cajamarca Carnival, Peru
If you are used to festivals like the one in Rio, then the Peruvian carnival will come as a huge surprise for you. The most notorious event takes place in the town of Cajamarca, where the dance troupes do their utmost to dance down every single street in the city. But the best thing about Peruvian carnivals is the water fight: people take buckets of water, bottles and water guns and douse each other on the street. Even rival dance troupes join the fight – against each other!
El Callao Carnival, Venezuela
Like other carnivals in South America, the carnival in El Callao, a port town in Venezuela, has African roots, but unlike other carnival it is not confined only to a few streets. In El Callao, the four days of the carnival mean that the performers and dancers take the city by storm, mixing with bystanders and urging them to join in on the fun. People dress up as Madamas, devils or Mediopinto, who smear themselves in a sticky black paste and will do the same to you unless you offer a donation.
Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia
If in some South American countries the carnival is an excuse for water fights, in Barranquilla people fight with…flowers. The carnival has floats, dancers and music, as well as a Battle of Flowers, during which the queen of the carnival, together with her entourage of princesses throw countless flowers at the audience.