Carnival of Blacks and Whites


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Carnival of Blacks and Whites

January 4-6
The Carnival of Blacks and Whites, held each year in Pasto, Colombia, is one of the oldest Carnival celebrations in South America. In 2002, it was officially declared part of the nation's cultural heritage. This Carnival has four distinct sections, drawn from different aspects of its traditions and history, but the main event commemorated is an annual day of freedom that was granted to slaves during the 1600s. According to tradition, in 1607 there was a slave uprising in Remedios that badly frightened the Spanish masters. The slave population in Popayán played on this fear and demanded at least one day of freedom to offset a similar revolt. They were given January 5 as their own, and on that day they took over the streets, danced to African rhythms, and blackened the city's white walls with coal. This celebration was brought to Pasto by the Ayerbe family in the mid-1800s. By the late 1880s, it had become quite elaborate and had taken on the traditional Carnival use of masks and costumes.
Pre-Carnival festivities begin on December 28, Holy Innocents' Day. This day honors the infants slain by King Herod as he sought to destroy the Christ child. In Colombia, it is a day to play pranks on friends and neighbors, usually involving hiding and trying to squirt them other with water. On January 3, pre-Carnival festivities continue with "el Carnavalito," featuring a special children's parade.
The Carnival officially opens on January 4, with a parade that commemorates the arrival in Pasto of the Castañeda family. Some say that the Castañedas are a caricature of the Ayerbe family, while others believe the Castañedas were a large country family that passed through or settled in Pasto in the early 20th century. Whatever the historical truth, in the parade and Carnival the Castañedas are presented as a zany group that includes a pregnant teenaged bride and many misbehaving children. They are overburdened with luggage, mattresses, and cooking equipment.
The following day, January 5, is the Day of the Blacks, on which the slave revolt is remembered. Revelers celebrate in the streets, and, using special paints and cosmetics designed for the occasion, they paint themselves, their friends, and the town's walls and buildings black. Festivities continue on January 6 with the Day of the Whites. White paints and cosmetics are used as they were the day before, and white powder is also thrown. The Carnival reaches its peak on this day with a final parade consisting of costumed groups, musical and dance ensembles, and elaborate floats that may have been a year in the making.
CONTACTS:
Corporación Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto
Calle 19, Carrera 25
Casa Don Lorenzo
Plazoleta Galán
Pasto, Nariño Colombia
www.colombia.travel/en
Tourism Promotion Fund of Colombia
Calle 69
No. 11-66
Bogota, Colombia
(c)
References in periodicals archive ?
He has previously worked in Paris, Venice and New York as well as on some of the biggest carnivals in Columbia including developing the spectacular Carnival of Blacks and Whites which was declared a "cultural and intangible heritage of humanity" by UNESCO.