Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carnaval de Barranquilla Part Two: the things you can get away with being a Gringa

The fantastic thing about the Carnaval in Barranquilla is there are not many foreign tourists; it is very much a Colombian festival. Colombia in general, does not have the amount of foreign tourists other South American countries have, such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru. Its reputation of drugs, guns and guerrillas still precedes it. Although Colombia has completely changed in the last ten years and is climbing up the rankings of best places in the world to visit. This is due to a positive progressive government and inventive tourism marketing. There are several commercials and Ads. Showing everything Colombia has to offer with the slogan “The Only Risk Is Wanting To Stay.”
I think this slogan is what my parents fear the most with my track record. On several occasions they have received calls from various countries where I have notified them I am not coming home and that I will be staying. They know how much I have always loved Colombia as well.
More and more people are coming to see the hidden jewel of South America but still for Carnaval most flock to Brazil. Because of this and the fact that Barranquilla is not a touristic destination at all but more of a normal working city, the people are not used to tourists. Colombians are amazing open and friendly people and they proved even more so during Carnaval.
The first day is one of the biggest with the battle of Flowers. As you stand on the sidelines watching the parade go by you find yourself in a spray form and flour war with the crowd. I arrived a bit late with the group I was with so it was a bit hard to find a good viewing spot. Eventually we found one in front of the Military school. Within five minutes I was talking to a Colombian guy and his family, I got to stand on one of their chairs to view the parade and they were feeding me beers. It soon became a running joke with my couch surfing friends that within five minutes of arriving somewhere I had new friends and after seven minutes I had a free drink in my hand.
The one guy worked for the Military school and knew all the Military guys guarding the line. With these connections I was allowed inside the barrier and was dancing along with the elaborately dressed dancers in the line. A kid on the side doused me in spray form from head to toe so I thought the best way to get rid of it would be to wiggle against a military solider guarding the line. I thought he would be a bit mad but he actually seemed to enjoy it....a bit too much.

Later on in the evening my group was deciding where to go, where to eat, where to party. The party was everywhere though, every street in the centre was crowded with people dancing and drinking. On every corner was a make shift bar with people dancing salsa or Vallenato between the tables. I was getting tired of people discussing what to do and not doing it so when I saw a pickup truck on the side of the street with two huge speakers in it bumping out reggeaton and a guy up in the back dancing I hopped up and joined him. Colombians started taking photos of me, the group I was with was wondering what the heck I was doing and one of the English guys who was tired of the bickering over what to do declared, “ We are leaving these twats, but taking her with us.”

I convinced the three English guys to come to the Daddy Yankee concert with me, which I wasn’t going to miss. We bought our tickets on the street off of a beautiful Colombian girl and ended up staying with her and her friends the entire night.
The music started around 8:00pm but Daddy Yankee and the other headlining acts did not start until 1:00am. We were quite far from the stage which was in the centre of the stadium but the party was all around us in the bleachers. I was a bit drunk by this time after several beers and shots of aguardiente. I had the crowd wrapped around my finger. I said watch this to one of the English guys and stood up facing the crowd threw my arms up and the air and starting dancing, the whole section went nuts and cheered me on. It turned into a bit of a game for me turning around every so often to make them scream.
When Daddy Yankee came on the whole stadium went wild I was in a massive group hug with all my new Colombian girlfriends revelling in the excitement. I was the lone Gringa in the sea of screaming Colombians.

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