Exploring Carnaval Celebrations Across Latin America

Exploring Carnaval Celebrations Across Latin America

Posted on March 01, 2022 0 Comments
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Many of you may have heard about the celebration of Carnaval. If not, you are in for a fun read about a long-lasting tradition of celebration that has marked the cultural identity of various countries.

Carnaval is a popular celebration across many countries, including Italy. However, in Latin America, it is widely celebrated across the entire southern continent and the Caribbean—for example, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and more.

Let’s step back for a little and explore the origins of this colorful celebration.

It’s common knowledge that Carnaval is a Catholic celebration that takes place in several countries around the world, just before the Lenten season starts. In Christianity, Lent is a time of fasting and austerity to prepare for the arrival of Easter. In fact, the Latin term carnem levare or carnelevarium means “to take away meat.” And here comes the interesting spin: In Spanish and other Romance languages, carne holds the double meaning of both meat and flesh.

So, basically, you could say that Carnaval is the last chance to have some fun (and eat some good steaks) before Ash Wednesday kick-starts the 40 days of Lent. The origins of this celebration date back hundreds of years and this tradition has continued for centuries.

But where are the best Carnaval celebrations in Latin America, and how are they celebrated?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The one-and-only Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is by far the largest, most famous Carnaval in the world. Two fun facts about the Carnaval of Rio:

  • The Rio Carnaval usually has over 300 Carnaval Street Parties. 
  • The Sambodromo (Samba Stadium) was originally designed by famous modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer and has a capacity for 72,000 samba-lovers. 

“Brazilians in general love any kind of party, and Carnaval is undoubtedly the biggest cultural celebration for Brazilians," said Ranieri Russi, senior partner account manager at Progress Brazil. "Practically the whole country gets excited with the rhythm, the colors, the party and the crowds in the streets. Carnaval parties are so popular in Brazil that each region has its own characteristics to celebrate them—in the big cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo the grandeur of the samba schools and their costumes stand out."

"In the northeast and north of Brazil, it is the blocos de dança and the electric trios that move millions of people through the streets of the historical centers," he continued. "Besides entertainment, it is a festival that generates a lot of money and tourism, and moves the economy as a whole.”

Barranquilla, Colombia

The hometown of Shakira certainly knows how to party! Considered the second largest in the world, the Carnaval of Barranquilla is a delightful mix of color, dance and good vibes. 

Included in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008, Barranquilla’s Carnaval is a micro-cosmos of Colombian society (and Latin America’s too). During this celebration, dances, instruments, and rhythms of European, African or Indigenous people of the Americas come together to create new cultural expressions.

Veracruz & Mazatlán, México

You can’t talk about great fiestas and not include a Mexican one. So, here you have two! One in the Gulf of Mexico, and the other in the Pacific Ocean. Both are very similar in style and while the Carnaval of Veracruz is the most famous, the one in Mazatlán has become a little trendier recently.

Music, dance, colors, and La Batucada are essential parts of the identity and culture of Hispanic and Latino people across Latin America. Carnaval celebrations are some of the most unique and culturally rich in the world—and now you know a little bit more about this fun tradition.

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Fernanda Murillo

Fernanda Murillo is a digital marketing specialist and graduate of the University of Massachusetts Boston, with experience in the development of strategic campaigns for Demand Generation and Digital Marketing. She conducts operational and creative strategy development based on brand, product, industry and market development. Fernanda is an expert in dynamic, personalized content and virtualization of the digital experience.


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