Chile’s Arica gets ready for its renowned carnival

The third largest carnival in the world, Con la Fuerza del Sol brings people together for three days of celebration, music, dance and color.

It’s that time of year again, thousands of people are gearing up for the huge carnival that takes over Arica, Chile’s northernmost city, every year.

Con la Fuerza del Sol — “with the force of sun”  — is a giant event bringing 7,000 dancers together for three days of parades and celebration every summer. The carnival attracts more than 70,000 visitors each year and is considered the third biggest party on the continent behind Oruro, Bolivia and Rio de Janeiro’s famous celebrations.

Since it’s inauguration in 2002, the carnival has helped preserve and showcase the rich local culture that draws on traditions of the high andean populations as well as those of African descent.

Like all carnivals, though, it is ultimately fusion of cultures, mixing the old and the new and bringing people together.

Through the dances we can see the history of the continent. In one, “La Diablada,” performers stage a fight between good and evil in which the archangel Michael confronts the infernal legions. This biblical influence is then enriched by colorful masks and costumes to create something distinctly Latin American.

“La Ñusta,” another dance, owes more to Inca traditions than those of European religions. Traditional dancing praises the Pachamama, the spiritual earth.

Last week, a delegation of dancers arrived in Santiago and met with Mayor Carolina Tohá to promote the event in Chile’s central region. At the meeting, the mayor emphasized the importance of preserving cultural traditions.

“Our Andino races are part of our culture and the culture of all Chileans, they enrich us and we must understand them as our own,” she said. “A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the carnival and I hope to do so again. I wish everyone the best with this year’s event and would like to extend your generous invitation to all Santiago residents to visit Arica.”

The festival runs from Friday Feb. 14 through Sunday Feb. 16. Frequent flights leave to Arica from Santiago. Alternatively, long distance buses, although time-consuming, leave regularly from most large towns.

For more details visit the Con la Fuerza del Sol website.