What a joy this week to head to Barranquilla for Carnaval with my best buds Shane and Ali.

Barranquilla hosts the second largest Carnaval in the world, with Rio (natch) holding the top spot. I don’t know… I can’t quite imagine more feathers than what we saw:

Carnaval starts in January and the uptick must be amazing. Because by the time we got there, people were out of their minds. Fireworks started at midnight, then again at 2:00 a.m., and again at 4:00. Our hotel must have been built from some resonant material because it behaved like a tuning fork – shimmying with every baBOOM like it was trying to get out and dance too.

[Incidentally, when I asked the question on Facebook, “Lodging or tuning fork?”, my colleagues in Bogota wrote back very helpful and positive responses, like “Did you go to Carnaval or a meditation retreat?” and “No sleep! DANCE!” We got the message and refined our strategy – party all night, sleep in the hottest hours of the day.]


This shot is from the streets outside La Troja, the Barranquilla salsa landmark and musico-cultural patrimony – Celia Cruz has played there, and Ruben Blades, and a host of salseros I couldn’t identify if they danced across my feet. Shane does not know how to salsa, but obviously did not let that stop him. By the way, Shane, NASA called and they want their super polymer heat-resistant alloy shirt back.

One of the more charming aspects of Carnaval is that people shoot you with foam and throw handfuls of Maizena – corn starch – at you all day, and all night. It’s a sweet, kind and friendly gesture among citizens and visitors who clearly care deeply about one another.

Or, it’s a great way to pick a fight in a crowd and make donuts in your eyelashes. But, whatever.

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The videos are from the Gran Parada de Comparsas, which are roughly equivalent to the samba schools in Rio’s Carnaval – groups who’ve been training for months or years to come out and entertain strangers in the stultifying heat of midday in B’quilla.

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We really saw it all:

  1. Wee little girls strutting like kissy-faced starlets in afro wigs and polka dot dresses
  2. Extreme Sexy hardbodies dancing in seventy-pound headdresses and pasties
  3. Randy oldsters shakin’ it and lookin’ for action
  4. Every skin color: milky white, every kind of cafe latte, all the way to turkish coffee
  5. Full-body fur costumes like bears and tigers and eagles and other sweaty beasts
  6. Anyone and everyone dressed as a marimonda – involving a face mask and a stylized penis for a nose

…all under that unrelenting, blistering sun.

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One very mundanely dressed fellow caught my eye:

His t-shirt reads, “So why do you invite me, if you know how I get?” Seemed fitting for the season…