D'a de Negritos and Fiesta de los Blanquitos

D’a de Negritos and Fiesta de los Blanquitos

January 5-6
In Popayán, in Colombia's Cauca Department, the Christmas season ends with the festivities that take place on January 5 and 6. But rather than honoring the Three Wise Men ( see Día de los Tres Reyes), who are said to have reached Bethlehem on January 6, the wild celebration that takes place here comes closer to Mardi Gras.
During the morning hours of January 5, known as the Día de Negritos or Day of the Black Ones, boys equipped with black shoe polish chase the girls and try to smear them with their blackened hands. By evening, older boys have joined in the fun, and no one who dares to leave the house is safe. There are parades in the afternoon with people in costume, decorated cars, and the music of chirimíasi (roving groups of musicians who play Colombian music on traditional instruments). At least one member of each group is dressed as a devil carrying a spike or horsewhip, which he uses to tease and frighten spectators. Afterward, the poor crowd into the main square, where beef and other foods donated by the town's wealthier inhabitants are distributed.
The following day, January 6, is known as the Fiesta de los Blanquitos (Festival of the White Ones). Instead of chasing the girls with shoe polish, the boys use talcum powder and wheat flour, which turns into a gluey substance when people dump water from their balconies on the victims. The rowdiness of the two-day celebration is not enjoyed by everyone, however. Older Colombians remember the days when well-dressed gentlemen sauntered beneath the windows of beautiful young women, who favored them by coming to the door and permitting a beauty mark to be dabbed on their faces.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Colombia
2118 Leroy Pl. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-387-8338; fax: 202-232-8643
www.colombiaemb.org
SOURCES:
FiestaTime-1965, p. 5