We know, we know, it's hard to think of any country in the world that can claim one-up on the annual Carnival festivals in Brazil. After all, what's better than elaborate swagger, colorful throngs of people and music that makes your pulse quicken with every beat. Truly, we get it.
However, while Brazil holds the guinness book of world records for the biggest carnival out, countries all over the world are competing in a way that suggests bigger might not always be better. With unique and dynamic traditions swarming streets at unpredictable hours, wearing demon masks (we kid you not) and dousing others with water balloons, we've picked out a few countries that celebrate Carnival like you've never imagined possible.
Watch out Brazil, you've got yourself some healthy competition!
If you celebrate Carnival in Ecuador, you better watch your back for those sneaky "diablitos" (little devils), who just love to play with water. These naughty, but playful children and teens enjoy throwing balloons filled with flour or water at innocent bystanders. AKA, you! We can say in good confidence that if you come to Ecuador during Carnival, you will be targeted (and at times when you least expect it). We advise wearing a rain jacket wherever you go, running shoes so you can make a quick getaway and a light hearted spirit.
Don't worry, it's all meant to be fun and games, and if you plan in advance, you might be able to get back at them!
We've all heard of the Miss America Beauty Pageant, but did you know that Mexico has their own one for Carnival? Yes, that's right, each year officials select one winner from a group of stunning women to be crowned "Queen of the Carnival." However, rumor has it you have to have more than just a pretty face, women are judged on their grace, attitude and intelligence.
Tucked away in the central part of Bolivia, the city of Oruro is the place to be for Carnival. Over 50 groups gather to dance, sing and play music from early in the morning till late at night. To be exact, they celebrate 18 hours a day during the 4 days of Carnival. Don't worry, while it sounds like overkill, we promise the stimulation and adrenaline will keep you awake.
The Bolivian Carnival is drenched in culture, expect to see devilish swagger (literally, they dress up as devils and demons, as well as angels, Incas and Spanish Conquerors) and a whole bunch of enthusiastic people parading the streets.
Ever been to a funeral for a fish? Well, many Spanish folk have. In case you're wondering, it's not just any fish, it's a sardine. The Spanish celebrate the end of Carnival, Ash Wednesday, by engaging in a procession known as the "Entierro de la Sardina" (burial of the sardine). Baffled? Us too. What we do know is that it involved hundreds of mourners dressed in black parading a model sardine in a coffin around the streets.
For them, the sardine is a symbol of the past and when it's set afire later on in the evening, it symbolizes rebirth and regeneration.
If you can't take a joke, then you might want to skip the celebrations in Colombia. Why? Well because sarcasm and mockery is what they do best. "La burla," which is making fun of something or someone, is practiced during Colombia's Carnivals. Don't worry, you probably won't be directly picked on, because they would rather show their sense of humor in costume! They dress up in comical ways to poke fun of Colombian drug lords or pop culture artists and singers.
It's neat to see and a great window into the culture and sense of humor of those good ol' Colombians.
If you're STILL not sold on any of the countries above, then why not check out THE Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. We can't deny that it's pretty incredible. Expect crowds and crowds of people, with over half of them being foreigners, but watch out because prices run high.
Carnival is SO important in Brazil that they shut down schools, offices, banks and companies to take the streets! But for dancers who practice Samba, this isn't a time of celebration but rather a time of competition! There are nearly 200 samba schools in Rio de Janerio and every year, samba dancers sweat it out to compete against their local rivals.
Stay tuned for some crazy videos and pictures next week when we take the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador to participate in the Carnival festivities!
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