A young boy squeals in delight as he gets sprayed in the face with canned foam during San Telmo‘s Carnival celebrations. Only a second later, he realizes it tastes horrible and contemplates crying for a split second before running from his young attacker. Carnival celebrations 2013 will continue until March 2. Check on this link for this year’s Buenos Aires Carnival information.
Archives for February 2013
Carnival does not just happen in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro or Argentina’s Gualeguaychú. For anyone who’s missed the boat— or bus — to the bigger carnivals, or can’t be torn away from the city’s hustle, Carnaval Porteño (Buenos Aires’ Carnival) is back and better than ever.
The free festivities take place on Saturdays and Sundays throughout February, as well as on Carnival holidays, this year on the 13th and 14th of February .
Murgas – The Basics
Dozens of barrios (neighborhoods) in the city have their own celebrations, with over 100 murgas (bands of marching percussionists and dancers) taking to the streets.
What’s different about Buenos Aires’ carnival is that it isn’t one long parade — the action happens within the confines of 35 gated-off street sections around the city. This has the benefit of dispersing the crowds so no one is stuck way out straining their neck to see who’s banging which drum. The celebrations may be less grandiose than other South American carnivals, but the party spirit is by no means lacking.
Each Buenos Aires’ murga carries an often silly or self-deprecating name that includes its home barrio, such as ‘Los Chiflados de Boedo‘ (The Crazies of Boedo); Los Viciouso de Almagro (The Vicious of Almagro); ‘Los Audaces of Bajo Belgrano‘ (The Audacious of Lower Belgrano); ‘Los fantoches de Villa Urquiza‘ (The Loud-Mouths of Villa Urquiza); and one of the city’s largest murgas ‘Los Amantes de La Boca‘ (The Lovers of La Boca).
A murga is characterized by the bombo con platillo, a special type of drum with a cymbal, originally brought to Argentina by Spanish immigrants. A pumping beat provides backing for murgueros (participants in the murga) who sing, dance and wave flags with a festive mix of artistic and political expression.
As if the drums aren’t enough to burst all eardrums in the vicinity, deafening chants are bellowed above the hubbub. Content ranges from group introductions to political messages called criticas — only the finest tuned Spanish ears are able to tell the difference.
With an approach to brightness and color similar to a two-year old let loose on the paints, brilliantly decorated faces grin at the crowds. Costumes, consisting of a suit, gloves, top hat and cane, are lovingly embroidered for months before carnival season by a host of murguero mothers. At the show, the shiny, sparkling results swish along so fast it’s hard to see where one sequined hat ends and the other begins.
A sea of onlookers get down to the beat, feet tapping with impeccable Latin timing whilst gaggles of small children spray each other, and everyone else in range, with canned foam. Giggling adolescents join in, using their aerosols to flirt with school friends.
History of Carnival in Buenos Aires
The Argentine carnival tradition grew at the end of the 18th century when a mix of immigrants used dance and song as a way to express disenchantment with their social situation. The subsequent murgas that sprang from this ‘breaking of the chains’ typically involved the working classes and were used as a way to laugh at those in power — the attire worn in Carnaval Porteño, with the top hat and suit get-up, originated from slaves poking fun at their masters.
Originally murgas tended to be ethnically divided. Freed African slaves and their descendants would have a separate murga from Italians or Galicians. This changed in the 1930s when murgas began to form by neighborhoods rather than nationalities or religion.
These days, murgas — still highly politically charged — are a way for communities to come together to express themselves. Each group has its own name and costume linked to its barrio (many murgas are connected to the government, while others choose to be independent). Groups can be found practicing in their barrio’s main squares during the year and neighbors often come along for some light entertainment and some heavy drumming.
“Last year there were some pregnant girls in our group, so this year they’ve brought their five or six-month old babies. Our oldest member is 40. Everyone dances together, we don’t discriminate, after all we all travel to the murgas on the same bus.”
Things haven’t always been as inclusive. In the past women weren’t allowed to dance with men, and were not permitted to wear the same clothes.
During the military dictatorship of 1976 -1983 it looked as if the carnival spirit was about to be stamped out forever. The traditional two-day holiday was annulled and although murgas weren’t expressly forbidden, it was almost impossible for them to continue. They were only allowed to take place in closed areas, and people had to pay to enter. “They stole the feeling of murgas by making profit out of them,” says Arcangelo, of the murgas during the dictatorship.
A return to democracy brought about a carnival revival. Workshops and courses were introduced to teach people how to be murgueros. This helped to expand the murga tradition and include those who previously weren’t involved, such as women and the middle classes.
Argentine rock and roll Gods also propelled carnival into popular culture with murga influenced rhythms in songs such as ‘El Murguero’ by Los Autenticos Decadentes; “Verano de 92” by Los Piojos and ‘Carnaval Todo la Vida’ by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Bringing this style of music to the masses worked — in 1997 murgas were given ‘Cultural Heritage’ status by the City of Buenos Aires.
Today, a million and a half people in Buenos Aires take to the streets to enjoy the festivities.
The current government continues to invest in murgas. Ex-president Cristina Kirchner — who was never one to turn down an excuse for a holiday — reinstated the two-day carnival holiday nationwide in 2011.
It’s safe to say that the spirit of carnival is working its way back into the mainstream and while the drum and crowd-averse may disagree, carnival-lovers feel this is yet more cause for celebration.
“Although there are bad things in the world, the murga shows that you always have to keep going, keep fighting, express yourself and tell the world that you want change,” says murguero Arcangelo. “And of course, put on a bit of color.”
So grab the face paints, get those feet tapping and take to the streets to join in the fun.
— by Rosie Hilder
Carnival in Buenos Aires is a grand fiesta that takes place every year throughout the month of February.
See this neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to find out where you can catch your colorful local murga take to the streets.
View Cortes Carnaval in a larger map
Times: — Every weekend of February, plus the carnival holidays of February 12 & 13th, 2018
Saturdays from 7:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.; Sundays from 7:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m.
Carnival Holidays: Monday, February 12 from 7 p.m until 2 a.m. & Tuesday, February 13 from 7 p.m. until 12 a.m.
Neighborhood Carnival Information 2018
Abasto AV. CORDOBA between SANCHEZ DE BUSTAMANTE Y AGÜERO
Almagro I AV. CORRIENTES between MEDRANO & GASCON
Almagro II LAMBARE between SARMIENTO & PERON
Balvanera AV. JUJUY between BELGRANO & MEXICO
Barracas HERRERA between BENITO QUINQUELA MARTIN & CALIFORNIA
Boedo I AV. BOEDO between INDEPENDENCIA & SAN JUAN
Boedo II AV. BELGRANO between MAZA & COLOMBRES
Coghlan AV. CONGRESO between DONADO & LUGONES
Palermo I DARWIN between CABRERA & NICETO VEGA
Paternal I AV. NAZCA between BELAUSTEGUI & M.CERVANTES
San Telmo Av. INDEPENDENCIA between PERU & PIEDRAS
Villa Crespo AV. SCALABRINI ORTIZ between CORRIENTES & PADILLA
Villa Pueyrredon AV. MOSCONI between BOLIVIA & ZAMUDIO
Villa Urquiza AV TRIUNVIRATO between MONROE & AV. OLAZABAL
|Club Floreal||ELCANO E/ GARMENDIA & AVALOS|
|Plaza Colegiales||MATIENZO E/ CONESA & FREIRE|
|Plaza Unidad Latinoamericana||ACUÑA DE FIGUEROA & COSTA RICA|
|Plaza Ricchieri||AV. BEIRÓ & QUEVEDO|
|Parque Avellaneda||AV. OLIVERA E/ DIRECTORIO & J. RODO|
|Parque Saavedra||AV. BALBIN E/ MANZANARES & CRISOLOGO LARRALDE|
|Plaza Irlanda||SEGUI E/ GAONA & NEUQUEN|
Buenos Aires Carnival Tips:
• Wearing easily stained garments such as silk to carnival is NOT recommended, but don’t worry about street clothes as the ‘carnival snow’ generally dissolves quickly.
• Be careful with expensive cameras as carnival visitors are inevitably ‘foamed’ by mischievous youth.
For additional Carnival information call: 4342-8199
Carnival takes place in Gualeguaychú from the beginning of January until early March, but February is the main carnival month here and around Argentina. Gualeguaychú and the entire province of Entre Rios is otherwise a laid-back, pretty, and generally under-appreciated Argentine destination.
Getting to Gualeguaychú
Gualeguaychu is 225 km north of Buenos Aires. The trip take about 2.5 hours in a car and three hours in a bus. Renting a car isn’t a bad option, especially for a family or group of friends because Gualeguaychú is close to Buenos Aires and the drivers in Entre Rios are some of the most relaxed in the country.
– Gualeguaychú from Buenos Aires by bus:
Buses depart approximately every half hour from Retiro bus station. Carriers include Flecha Bus, Ciudad de Gualguay, and San Jose S.R.L.
While timetables can be viewed on the Retiro station’s website, tickets must be purchased on the carrier’s respective website, on the phone with a credit card, or at Retiro station. Make sure to book in advance if traveling to Gualeguaychú at the peak of Carnival.
Accommodation in Gualeguaychú
Those who wish to be more removed from the town’s booming carnival nightlife can opt for something near Gualeguaychu’s natural hot springs about one mile outside the city or consider staying at an estancia—Argentina’s quintessential, ranch-style bed and breakfast accommodation, just outside of town.
Camping at Carnival in Gualeguaychu
Necessary items for a Carnival camping excursion include a tent, sunscreen with a high SPF, toilet paper, a bottle opener, mate gourd and thermos, beach wear — and if you’re a female as proud as the Latina locals — a thong bikini. Leave valuables at home, and conceal cameras while swimming on the rio’s sandy banks
If camping, arrive well-rested, as parties go well into the night and campers wake up a few hours after the heat of the sunrise resurrects them from their tents.
Carnival celebrations take place every Saturday in February, and on the 16th, which is a national holiday. The final day of Carnival 2015 is February 28.
Tickets to the parade and competitions can be purchased with a major credit card online or paid for with cash at the corsódromo’s ticket window. Parade goers who choose online purchase should bring emailed vouchers to the corsódromo ticket office to redeem true tickets.
Ticket office hours are listed below. As for seating options, the more front and center the seat, the more expensive the ticket.
Corsódromo ticket office:
Monday— Friday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday — 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Gualeguaychú Tourist Office
Plazoleta de los Artesanos – Paseo del Puerto
Tel: 03446- 422-900 / 423-668
Argentina’s quintessential provincial Carnaval is in the riverside town of Gualguaychu, a place as crazy and mixed-up as its name suggests during Carnival’s celebratory days of February.
This party pueblo, nestled in the often overlooked province of Entre Rios, is just a few hours north of Buenos Aires.
Carnival Weekend Rundown
During February’s long weekend of feriados, or holidays, young Argentines and foreigners alike make a mass exodus from the Buenos Aires’ downtown Retiro bus station to Gualeguaychú for a few days of annual Carnival debauchery. Many eager youth start the party on the bus with fernet and cerveza in tow.
When attendees arrive in the dusty Gualeguaychú bus station, many tumble out and go straight to kioskos, convenience stores, to stock up on fernet, cola, and food for the long weekend. Most then make their way to bustling river-side campgrounds, like Solar del Este among others.
The Carnival Campsite Environment
Days are spent riverside, sunning in the sand, and dancing under spritzing pipes in front of a large music stage. Attendees spend their nights partying in the town streets as they pass around frothy liters of fernet con cola, Argentina’s 20-something preferred cocktail, dancing to electronic Latin hits. Early mornings are spent recovering in bed, usually in a tent. Rinse in rio, repeat.
Aside from the epic Carnival parade, the weekend’s party festivities are neither children nor rest-friendly and those who chose to camp must be ready for a serious weekend of partying to attend this ultimate Argentine Carnival. It’s not quite Rio de Janeiro, but this party gives its U.S. counterpart, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras a run for its money.
Tents pop up like colorful mushrooms as friends cluster the structures close together in loose polygons. Stragglers arrive late into the night but the Argentine spatial mentality prevails — there is always room for one more. Some start modest camp-side asados — Argentine barbecue grill outs — while others wait in line at campsite convenience stores to stalk up on jamón y queso, or ham and cheese sandwiches, to prepare their stomachs for Carnival’s first night of full fledged mayhem.
Most campers drink a quarter of their cola liter with their picnic dinner and fill the bottle’s void space with fernet and then proceed to pass it along to both friends and nearby strangers. This communal drinking ritual takes place throughout the weekend at both nighttime street parties and during the all-day beach celebrations.
After dinner, young attendees filter out of the campsite onto the dusty road that serves as a vein to the center of town. Here, youth from all stretches of Argentina, as well as Uruguay and even Brazil rejoice in the streets dancing to cumbia, a popular genre of Colombian dance music, and pop music coming from large speakers placed in stationary cars. People dance, buzzed men shout piropos — flirtatious cat calls — and all engage in the annual Carnival tradition of spraying each other with aerosol party string.
After dancing into the wee hours, the fernet in the liter bottles is either finished or whirled into the air to spray fellow dancers. Just around dawn, the dancing Carnival junkies head back to their tents to retire for a few hours of much needed shut-eye.
Subsequent to a few hours of sunlit sleep, people start to stumble out of their tents, throw on a swimsuit, indulge in a traditional breakfast of cookies and mate, and then they retire to the sunny river shores to do it all again. At Gualeguaychu’s Carnival, Argentine party stamina is at its finest.
A canteen/café usually lines campsite shorelines in addition to large stages with gigantic outdoor standing-cum-dancing areas in front of them. The official dance area at the campsite Solar del Este is housed under a network of tiny metallic tubes that spew spritzes of refreshing water at raging crowds. Though these sexy waterworks may seem to mimic MTV’s spring break specials, the extreme heat and high-density dance floor necessitate this cooling system. On stage MC’s energize the crowd throughout the day’s hottest hours and offer a lineup of party-vibe pop music.
The Carnival Parade
Tickets for the Carnival parade range from reasonable to pricey, and are well worth it. It is held a short cab ride away from campsites at the corsódromo, a long runway surrounded by bleachers built just for the annual Carnival event.
Parade entertainment by the comparsas, or dance and drum troupes, is stunning. Hundreds of virtually naked professional dancers decorated in large peacock feathers and painted smiles adorn five-story floats as they move in sync on tiny multilevel, flower pedal platforms and other festive decor.
-by Catherine Wright