Colombian Carnaval comes to Chilean capital

The celebrations in Santiago’s Providencia neighborhood will run from 1pm until the small hours of the morning, with dancing, music and foods from Colombia’s coastal city of Barranquilla.

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In 2003, UNESCO added the Colombian celebration of Carnaval in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla to its Intangible World Heritage list. Since 2008, the festival has also been celebrated in the Santiago neighborhood of Providencia. From 1pm onward, Bucarest Street, near the Los Leones Metro stop, will be given over to costumed revelers, dancers and tropical orchestras.

The celebrations will reach their height between 4 and 6pm, when street performers, 50 dancers in typical Caribbean costume, and the competition for the Queen of the festival will get underway. Typical food stalls and artisans stands, as well as a pair of dance floors in the street will draw crowds of Chileans and Colombian expats from around Santiago.

The festivities will include traditional dances and activities from northern Colombia, including the dance known as “Joselito se fue con las cenizas” or “Joselito, gone with the ashes,” where a man dances himself to death.

When the outdoor festival shuts down at 1am, the party will move indoors to Tierra Colombiana restaurant, also located on Bucarest street, where visitors can dance the rumba until dawn.

Chile’s Carnaval Barranquilla was first organized four years ago by Colombian ex-pat Diana Chaparro and her Chilean spouse Víctor Reyes. In its first year, the festival attracted almost exclusively members of the Colombian expat community here in Santiago, the majority of whom hail from the coastal region where the real festival takes place each year. In it’s second year, the number of participants more than doubled, rising from 1,000 in 2008 to 2,700 in 2009, amongst whom some 30 percent were Chilean. This year, Chaparro says, they hope to attract 3,000 people.

Santiago’s Carnaval will take place on Saturday, March 5 beginning at 1pm on Bucarest Street in Providencia. Entry will be CP$4,000 (US$8) for adults and free for children.