Uruguay Carnival – Daytours4u http://www.daytours4u.com/en Tours, activities and travel tips in South America Wed, 18 Jul 2018 14:50:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 96832869 Your Essential Guide to Uruguay Carnival http://www.daytours4u.com/en/uruguay4u/your-essential-guide-to-uruguay-carnival/ Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.daytours4u.com/en/?p=11141 From revelry in La Pedrera and festivals on the border to tablados and parades in the capital – we run you through the best of Uruguay Carnival.

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Uruguay is perhaps best well-known as the host of the longest carnival in world – there are a mammoth 40 days between the inaugural parade and the final celebrations. It is undoubtedly one of the best times of year to visit this tranquil country sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, for this popular festival coincides with summer, making it the ideal opportunity to enjoy some revelry by night and the gorgeous beaches by day.

Uruguay Carnival is the longest in the world / Photo by Gentileza del Museo del Carnaval

It is a common mistake to assume that it is a single festival, when in fact, depending on which part of the country you are in, you can enjoy different carnivals with different characteristics – those in the cities bordering Brazil, for example, combine samba with local rhythms, while the festivities in Montevideo are comprised primarily of murgas and candombe music. Young people looking for a party atmosphere traditionally head to the department of Rocha, specifically La Pedrera, which puts on a Uruguayan version of the Full Moon Party where the main streets become populated by groups of friends adorned in fanciful disguises.

The date of carnival is international and it varies every year, established after the days of the Jewish Passover and the Christian Holy Week are set. The most important date, Resurrection Sunday, is the first Sunday after the first full moon of autumn (spring in the northern hemisphere) and then the date of carnival is set 40 days prior. In Uruguay, there are two public holidays for this celebration, always the Monday and Tuesday of the carnival long-weekend.

Humorists and choirs put on spectacular shows at the parades / Photo by Gentileza del Museo del Carnaval

CELEBRATIONS IN THE CAPITAL

In Montevideo, there are three types of celebration: El Desfile Inaugural del Carnaval (the Inaugural Carnival Parade), Desfile de Llamadas (The Parade of Calls), and the Tablados.

El Desfile Inaugural del Carnaval takes places down Avenida 18 de Julio in the Centro district, marking the opening of the festivities with performances by a number of bands, murga groups, comedians, parodists and other artists. In addition, the Carnival Figures, Las Llamadas and the Samba Schools that were chosen by the jury that year are those who participate in the parade. Until 2017 that place was occupied by the “queens” of the three categories, but at the moment, people of both sexes can be elected as representatives.

El Desfile de Llamadas, held since 1956, offers a spectacle of over 40 comparsas – groups of singers, musicians, and dancers. This traditionally takes places in the neighbourhoods of Sur and Palermo, commonly down the Carlos Gardel and Isla de Flores streets. Among the most awarded are Yambo Kenya -the champion of the official contest in 2017-, Cuareim 1080 -the winner in 2016-, Tronar de Tambores, La Gozadera, and Generación Lubola. The name, “llamadas” – translated as “calls” – derives from colonial times and can be traced back to an impromptu meeting in which some random comparsa members summoned the rest of the group to start using the same rhythmic language of the tamboril – a type of drum.

“Los corsos barriales” of Montevideo are other Carnival parades to take into account: every year there are 18, spread throughout the map of the city, which provide the traveler with the ideal excuse to know a neighborhood away from the tourist circuit and join to this authentic party.

The Tablados are not parades but outdoor performances. They are usually put on across most neighbourhoods and the programming varies every night, given that they host different groups of artists divided into five categories: comparsas, murgas, comedians, parodists, and revistas. If there is anything in particular that you want to see while you’re in town, keep checking the schedule regularly. The best and most complete tablados take place in Teatro Verano, an open-air theatre in the Parque Rodó neighbourhood where the jury of the official carnival shows is based.

The colourful comparsas fill the Montevideo air with raucous drum rhythms / Image Source

BORDER RHYTHMS

The departments of Artigas, Rivera, and Cerro Largo border with Brazil, and with strong influences from this northern neighbour, they put on combined celebrations featuring samba, axé – a type of Afro-Brazilian music – and other rhythms of the region.

El de Melo, the capital of Cerro Largo, is perhaps the most “show business” since it invites recognised Uruguayan and Argentinian vedettes. Elsewhere, in the city of Artigas, the celebrations are inspired by the Rio de Janeiro carnival and are probably the most professional, with four samba schools rehearsing throughout the year for the performances in February: Barrio Rampla, Emperadores de la Zona Sur, Imperio del Ayuí and Académicos. Each school brings together approximately one thousand artists for their parades down Avenida Lecueder, each one lasting around one hour apiece.

Carnaval de Rivera counts on a strong mix of cultures, mixing candombe and murga from the south with samba hailing from the north. For over a decade, the parades here have been making their way down Avenida Sarandí, replete with comparsas, samba schools from Rivera and Livramento, Carnival Queens and King Momo. The parades always close with a show in a public arena located at the end of the street, in front of the main square.

The Carnival of Artigas has a strong influence from Brazil / Photo by Carina Fossati

PARTY ON THE COAST

There is no organisation behind it, but Carnaval de la Pedrera is a phenomenon that is self-generated by the fame of previous years and social media buzz – it is a favourite for young people who want to party until after sunrise and those who don’t fancy taking in parades. Instead, groups of friends dress up themselves, wear spontaneous disguises, and go out into the main street to revel the days and nights away.

Such is the reputation of this fiesta that a couple of years ago, the mayor of the region took to the radio to ask for people to stop coming, such was the overcrowded state of the city. In recent times however, authorities have increased security operations and improved cleaning, public restrooms, and other details to ensure the good atmosphere remains.

TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT

This 2018 in Uruguay the strict days of carnival (working holidays) are Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th, Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th February, days in which it is celebrated in most departments. However, the carnival’s inaugural parade, down Avenida 18 de Julio, will be on Thursday, January 25th; The Call Parade will be Thursday 8th and Friday 9th February; and the final ceremony of the Official Carnival Contest, on Thursday, March 15th.

If you want to enjoy the carnivals on the border, it is very important to book accommodation in advance, since February is the time when these places receive the most visitors and the hotel industry is often overwhelmed. On the Atlantic Coast, hotels tend to fill up quickly and raise the price of rooms between the Saturday and Tuesday of Carnival.

With the exception of the carnival in La Pedrera, all festivities and parades in the country that take place on public streets are usually fenced off and have varying access depending on the price of your ticket. The Tablados and Teatro Verano likewise have different ticket prices according to the day and the performances on show.

Throughout the last few years, groups of murgas and other artistic styles have been growing in the interior of the country. For this reason, many departmental governments have managed to attract performers from the capital, and so today it is possible to enjoy some of these shows outside of Montevideo during carnival.

10 years ago, a Carnival Museum opened at Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 (Ciudad Vieja (Old Town), telephone +598 2915 0807, open from 11am to 5pm), displaying costumes, scenery, and many other historical artifacts. The museum is also a next door to Mercado del Puerto, an old building where several ‘parrilladas’ (barbeque restaurants) offer their spaces as a meeting place for travellers and locals who fancy sampling some Uruguayan delicacies.

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Do not miss the various manifestations of Uruguay Carnival, and, if you’re looking for other things to do during these dates or indeed at any time of the year, be sure to contact us at Uruguay4u. We offer the best tours and activities in Montevideo, Punta del Este, Colonia, and more.

By: Carina Fossati, journalist and author of the blog Hills to Heels

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Las Llamadas Bring Uruguay Carnival to Life http://www.daytours4u.com/en/uruguay4u/las-llamadas-bring-uruguay-carnival-to-life/ Wed, 03 Feb 2016 08:00:24 +0000 http://daytours4u.com/en/?p=9050 It's party time on the streets of Montevideo as Uruguay honours its African roots with the breathtaking Las Llamadas Parades. Learn all about them here.

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With carnival celebrations in full swing across Montevideo, Uruguay’s African community is once again stepping out of the shadows and into the country’s spotlight. Crowds of singers, drummers, dancers, and revelers are, through a host of exorbitant celebrations, paying homage to an expressive culture brought to these shores by thousands of African slaves in the 18th century.

Uruguay CarnivalLas Llamadas bring joy and excitement to the streets of Montevideo / Image Source

As per tradition, the festivities began in late January with the Desfile Inaugural (Inaugural Carnival Parade) down 18 de Julio Avenue, but this was simply a precursor to the main event which kicks off tomorrow. Every year, on the first Thursday and Friday of February, musicians fill the air with African rhythms and costumed performers gyrate through Montevideo’s poorest neighbourhoods, launching a street fiesta known as ‘El Desfile de Llamadas’ (The Parade of Llamadas).

The term Llamadas – Spanish for “Calls” – refers to a time when former slaves would use drums to invite their neighbours for a gathering, whereupon they would practice religious rituals together and discuss the collective conditions under which they were living. In times of celebration, the same marginalised African societies would command the streets outside their homes and party to the sound of candombe, drawing interest from people of all ethnicities. This was the birth of Uruguay Carnival.

In the years following the emancipation of slavery, the white European immigrant population helped to keep these customs alive. Over time, both the Llamadas and candombe music have become an important part of Uruguay’s cultural identity – the country has gone from suppressing its African roots to openly embracing them.

The comparsas adorn costumes bedecked in stars and moons / Image Source

Today, Afro-Uruguayans and the white working classes parade together in groups known as comparsas, drumming and dancing in exuberant apparel as they compete to win the hearts of the crowd. Each comparsa is fronted by decorative banners showing trademark logos and slogans, while young masked performers wave an array of flags bedecked in moons, stars, and lights. These symbols hold references to Islam, the faith observed by the African slaves.  

This is still very much a domestic party – not yet recognised on the international stage. Uruguay Carnival remains a strong advert for diversity, and its increasing popularity reveals that the local population wants to preserve the African influence in the region. In 2016, on the eve of the Llamadas Parades, it appears that the terms African and Uruguayan are intrinsically linked.

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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 PauloChile, Colombia, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, and across Argentina.

By Simon Hall

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Uruguay Carnival Celebrations Deeply Influenced by African Traditions http://www.daytours4u.com/en/uruguay4u/uruguay-carnival-celebrations-african-traditions/ Wed, 06 Jan 2016 08:00:31 +0000 http://daytours4u.com/en/?p=8856 Carnival celebrations in South America are traditionally associated with Rio de Janeiro, Carnaval Porteño in Buenos Aires, and Carnaval de Barranquilla in Colombia. The festivities at this time of year in the continent’s smallest country, Uruguay, may be less renowned, yet they remain equally vibrant, colourful, and dazzlingly expressive. While Uruguay Carnival is indeed a [...]

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Carnival celebrations in South America are traditionally associated with Rio de Janeiro, Carnaval Porteño in Buenos Aires, and Carnaval de Barranquilla in Colombia. The festivities at this time of year in the continent’s smallest country, Uruguay, may be less renowned, yet they remain equally vibrant, colourful, and dazzlingly expressive. While Uruguay Carnival is indeed a countrywide affair, the main revelry takes place in the capital: Montevideo. Thousands get into costume and grace the streets, local and international dancers gyrate in sequined attire, bonfires glimmer in the night air, and drums beat out the thunderous African rhythm known as “candombe” – this annual party brings unrelenting joy to the city.

Uruguay Carnival is a vibrant and expressive affair / Image Source

The history of Uruguay Carnival is rooted in the country’s African culture that first emerged in the mid-1700’s when Montevideo was a major trade port for ships bringing African slaves to the Rio de la Plata region. Despite coming from the same lands, the slaves belonged to myriad ethnic groups and together lacked a common identity. They yearned for their musical heritage, religious practices, old habits, and faraway homelands. Before Uruguay abolished slavery, these men and women would congregate in houses located in poor neighbourhoods and reminisce about their origins through song and dance. Certain masters would also allow their workers to hold extravagant parties in which they could celebrate their African ancestry.

The festivities grew in popularity and once the slaves’ freedom was granted, the African communities began throwing ever more spectacular events in impoverished districts, most prominently Sur and Palermo. The unique candombe sounds – acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage of humanity – were used to gather people together, giving birth to Las Llamadas (The Calls) which are an important aspect of Carnival today.

Contemporary glitz and glamour in Montevideo to celebrate together the diversity / Image Source

The modern phenomenon of Uruguay Carnival began back in 1956, and it has, ever since, become a highlight on the Uruguayan cultural calendar. In more recent times, Uruguay Carnival has been garnering attention on the international stage thanks largely to the distinct style of candombe. This recognition has given fresh momentum to the country’s burgeoning black cultural movement and it has also raised awareness about the history of Afro-Uruguayans: present-day Carnival in Uruguay is helping to build bridges.

Much of the contemporary glitz and glamour on display pays homage to the African slave communities of a bygone era – the outfits, makeup and music provide subtle references to stories of repression; white men decorate themselves with black face paint; and white women don traditional African apparel. The ethnic and social classes unite to light up cosmopolitan Montevideo for 40 simply spectacular days and nights.

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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 PauloChile, Colombia, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, and across Argentina.

By Simon Hall

The post Uruguay Carnival Celebrations Deeply Influenced by African Traditions appeared first on Daytours4u.

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