The idea of ‘Carnaval’ often triggers images of the flamboyant celebrations held in Rio de Janeiro or other parts of Brazil. What many fail to realize, however, is that Carnaval is celebrated in different ways and shapes all over Latin America and has a rich tradition in northern Chile.
In fact, Chile’s northern city of Arica is currently gearing up to host its Carnaval Andino con la Fuerza del Sol, one of the most important carnavals of the Southern Cone. In order to avoid competing with local carnavals in surrounding towns and cities, Arica launches their carnival season at the end of January.
What to expect in Arica:
On January 25, Arica’s carnival will storm the streets of the city, uniting dancers and traditions from all over the region in one of the most exciting celebrations of Andean culture in the country.
While Carnaval Andino Internacional will showcase traditional Andean foods and handicrafts, the real gem of the event is Andean dance or Baile Andino, where dance troops costumed in exotically colored and intricate costumes strut their wares and their moves along Arica’s main streets and plazas.
Each troop specializes in a particular Andean dance, although most have a larger repertoire of different dances. Individual dances have been passed down through generations and serve specific cultural purposes. Some celebrate and give thanks, others seek to overcome conflict or to grieve those passed away.
This plethora of dances reflects “a cultural diversity in the Andean world,” Martín Quispe Cruz, president of one of the participating dance troops, told This is Chile. “No dance is more important than any other, this variety and diversity are its essence.”
A visitor to Arica’s Carnaval will experience traditions not just isolated in Chile but ones that “reflect pan-Andean cultural heritage,” Quispe explained. These Andean traditions exist in varying permutations in parts of Chile, Argentina, Peru and Bolivia.
If you’re interested in visiting Arica for Carnaval Andino Internacional, book your lodging before arrival as tens of thousands of people attend the event. From Santiago, Arica is most easily accessible by plane with flights around CLP$140,000 (US$280). For those with more time to spare, buses are available from Santiago, although the ride is long at around 30 hours. Prices range from CLP$30,000 – 80,000 (US$60 -160) one way. Arica is also accessible by bus from neighboring Peru, or many of Chile’s northern cities.