It’s January and the summer is sizzling, but there is something else in the air; the streets are seemingly exploding into scenes of fantastical costumes, rhythmic music, exotic dance, parades and celebration. Yes, we are talking about Buenos Aires Carnival.
The colourful Murgas of Carnival in Buenos Aires / Image Source
Each weekend during the months of February, the city of Buenos Aires will be hosting its very own fabulous Carnival with delights and traditions for all to behold. Approximately 17,000 street musicians and artists, over 100 ‘Murgas’ (Carnaval bands), plus more than 1,000 drum and percussion instruments will be joyfully storming the streets of various neighbourhoods in order to showcase their best artistic talents.
During the celebrations of the Porteño Carnival, you may be alarmed to find yourself face-to-face with ‘gangs’ that go by the name of ‘The Vicious of Almagro’, ‘The Crazies of Spinetto’ or the ‘The Hobos of La Boca’ but don’t cower under the duvet just yet. These are names of the constituents that are, in fact, a cultural heritage and some of the most famous neighbourhood Murga groups here in Buenos Aires; the epitome of Carnival in Buenos Aires and a sight that cannot be missed!
Murga is a typical, time-honoured cultural expression from Argentina and Uruguay. Essentially it is an assemblage of percussionists, dancers and fantasies, with the occasional flamethrower, juggler and stilt dancer thrown in for good measure. However, Buenos Aires distinguishes itself from the rest of the country, as each performance will represent a certain ‘barrio’ (neighbourhood). The rhythm of one provincial street band will be distinct from the next, by the origins of various urban folk custom, tempo and arrangement, not to mention the exciting, colourful costumes. All are united by the use of lyrics, known as ‘criticas’ that cleverly combine social rebuking with humour and dancing. So if you are in Buenos Aires during these cultural Carnaval festivities, be sure to discover the new areas of the city through the heart and rhythm of its people!
One word of warning: due to the summer heat, the celebrations are notoriously associated with water…generally in the form of ‘bombitas’ or as we know them, water bombs. Keep a watchful eye out for mischievous children awaiting their next victim, or find your inner child, grab a Rey Momo, a handful of balloons, and join in the fun. For dates, times and locations check the official website of the government of Buenos Aires. Click here for details.
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If you are visiting South America for carnival this summer, we can help you enrich your travel experiences. Check out our tours and activities in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, and across Argentina.
Edited by Simon Hall