It’s two weeks before Carnival starts in Barranquilla and already the city is buzzing. Surely only Christmas can rival carnival for the way it takes over an entire city. On every house there are masks hanging on the walls, coloured paper decorations strewn across the exteriors, cumbiamberos – complete with straw hats and red neckerchiefs – propped up outside. Every stereo in the city is turned up to full volume, a mixture of hard carnival-ready cumbias (from the likes of Alfredo Gutierrez and Anibal Velasquez) and Joe Arroyo’s legendary salsa pipes pounding from the speakers. Every cultural institution (of which there are many) has switched to carnival fever. If you want to go to to a museum and see something un-carnival-related you’re out of luck. Every event is adorned with the word “carnaval”! The city has only one agenda, this is holiday season, time for the big verbenas, for the fiestas, to revel in the musical offerings that Barranquilla has to give.
For a good article on what Colombia carnival is all about check out this offering from Gina Vergel: El Carnaval de Curramba: Barranquilla Carnival