February 16, 2006

Carnaval and Candombe in Montevideo

Carnaval and Candombe in Montevideo

The other night Winston and I were strolling along Las Ramblas (a path that snakes along the coast) and we watched, from a distance, as a woman in billowy white clothing sacrifice a chicken and then placed it in the ocean. Apparently the “culto afroumbandista” likes to make sacrifices to “la madre de todos los dioses” at the beach by our house. I prefer hanging out at a beach about a mile and a half from my house, not that I have anything against animal sacrifice or anything.

Rachel Terp, in a letter to Open Source, 2/16/06
carnaval 2

Carnaval in Montevideo, Uruguay. [Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]

My friend Rachel Terp is something of a world traveler. While most of our friends kicked around Rhode Island after graduating college, Rachel high tailed it out of there to spend a year in Argentina on a Fulbright. Fast forward two years later, after deciding she didn’t like New York, Rachel and her boyfriend Winston made their way back to South America, this time, to Montevideo, Uruguay, where they’ve been sending regular dispatches back to the states. I talked to Rachel today about carnaval in Uruguay, which starts a few weeks earlier than it does in Brazil.

During the weeks leading up the major carnival parades you could hear troops of candombe drummers practicing very complicated beats, accompanied by a group of dancing women in the front, going down the street rehearsing in costumes or street clothes. They carry large cylindrical drums… It’s not like a conga line, it’s more like a marching band, except they’re all carrying drums.

Rachel Terp, in a conversation with Open Source, 2/16/06
carnaval 3[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]
carnaval 4[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]

Montevideo has two major carnival parades. One goes down 18 De Julio Street, the main strip that goes through the old city and the downtown area, and is more of a corporate and family event. The street is wider so you feel like you have a ton of space to walk around. You get more of the larger carnival processions, the dancers and the flag carrieres, the larger groups that come out to that with men on stilts, or a band performing on a large truck. Families come out with kids and everyone is out all night drinking beer in the streets.

Rachel Terp, in a conversation with Open Source, 2/16/06
carnaval 5[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]
carnaval 8[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]

About a week and a half later is the second carnival celebration, Desfile de Llamadas, [Parade of the Drum Calls] which goes through the Afro-Uruguayan neighborhoods Palermo and Barrio Sur. It’s an older section of the city, it’s not as prominent a street by any means, and fairly narrow by comparison. So they still have a few rows of chairs but the sidewalks are packed with people and you have to push and shove to get a spot. People are hanging off the buildings and climbing up the iron bars to hang off the windows. It’s very exciting. There’s a sense of danger in the air just cuase it’s so packed with people.

Rachel Terp, in a conversation with Open Source, 2/16/06
carnaval 6[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]
carnaval 7[Tennessee Grimes & Rachel Terp]

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