Friday, January 27, 2006

The longest carnival in the world has begun

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Uruguay's carnival, parade in 18 de julio Uruguay's carnival 18 de julio paradeLast Thursday started Uruguay's carnival, which this year's been baptized as the longest carnival in the world. I guess, we may not have Brazilian's glamorous, most famous carnival, but we have the longest, or so they say. It goes from January’s last week until the first days of March. Uruguay's carnival actually has little or nothing to do with Brazilian’s one.

Uruguay's carnival 18 de Julio paradeIt's Uruguay biggest popular celebration; it's a strange mixture between Hispanic carnival traditions with afro rhythms, the result is something I haven’t seen elsewhere. Along the month or so it lasts a lot of shows and presentations take place starting with the initial parade in 18 de Julio the main street in Montevideo's downtown. This initial parade consists of different carnival groups called comparsas which compete for the year’s carnival prize, and walk all over 18 singing and dancing, and waving flags, and carnival symbols.

As it was just some blocks away from my place I decided to pass by to take some pictures. For the record the previous time I'd gone to this parade I was a kid with no more than ten years, and my only and main recollection of it was about "cabezudos" (meaning bigheaded), which are guys disguised with an enormous painted "head", reaching more than 8 feet tall that approach to children to scary them at the rhythm of music. To my surprise they told me that these characters are no longer very frequent, too bad, they rocked. Well this time I also got a little scared but not because of the cabezudos, you see, every time I took out my camera I had the feeling that a lot of eyes that seemed to have escaped out of mordor where watching it and following me. Nothing happened, there was a lot of police presence but it was uncomfortable.

I would like to say it was awesome, but it really wasn’t, the truth is that it didn’t live up to my memories. Between every comparsa you’d have to wait around twenty minutes. It disappointed me to see so much commercial propaganda in the flags, banners and carrousels of each carnival group. I felt the whole thing has gone very commercial. Even though there were a lot of cops there was still a feeling of insecurity. Next Friday is the second big parade in Uruguay’s carnival; named "Las Llamadas", it’s more typical of afro culture in Uruguay, with much more Candombe which a like and for me much more enjoyable.

Uruguay's carnival 18 de julio parade


Anonymous said...

Love your blog, I have a question for you. I will be studying at Universidad Catolica in Montevideo for 5 months (March-July). This isn't super important, but I am wondering if there are any health/exercise clubs or gyms in the city? I know I can run outside, but are there indoor choices also? I know soccer is popular...
Thanks! -Brianna

gabouy said...

Brianna, thanks. Of course there are several clubs and gyms in the city, like YMCA Uruguay, Juventus,Bohemios,
Club de golf, etc. I'd suggest to ask in the university if they have any sort of discount agreement with any club or gym, also the choice of club depends on the neighborhood you will be staying.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I appreciate your help:)
I'm excited to come to Uruguay!

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your Blog and actually just discovered Uruguay a few days ago. With everything I read (although there isn't much personal experience stuff in english out there) I'm getting more excited about coming and visiting. I'm American and am nearing a time when my professional career will come to and end. I'm 46 now but hope to be able to leave this crazy country and find a simpler kinder place to retire. Looks like you've put a lot of effort into your Blog and I'm enjoying the experience. Now all I have to do is learn Spanish!

gabouy said...

william, hi, thanks for the feedback, and good luck with your spanish!

Tennispiggy4 said...

thanks soo much. you really helped me. i was looking for info on holidays or Uruguay. i couldnt find anything until i found your blog.

Anonymous said...

Two things: First I would reccomend Club Malvin in the Malvin barrio of Montevideo. I have lived most of my life in NYC and it seemed like the most "1st world"
Second: I traveled with a friend who was from the US and he knew about 10 words in Spanish...hola, como estas? buen dia, me llamo Patricio, etc. etc. and we went to Uruguay for a month. He loved it so much he almost cried when he left and is still trying to find a way to move there and be able to live there (economy) Good Luck!!! y Aguante La Celeste!!!! said...

Brianna, The Universidad Catolica has agreements with some clubs in Montevideo, Malvin I think, and you can go there for free. So, ask Bernarda at the international office she will help you.
good luck!!

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