Disappointed as I was to be away from NOLA during Mardi Gras season, I managed to get a taste of the festivities anyway the day Shepard and I spent enjoying Baranquilla’s Carnaval. According to locals, Baranquilla’s is the next best thing to Brazil, which would unofficially make it the second best in the world.
From the minute we arrived in the city and boarded a local bus bound for the center, the energy and spontaneity of Carnaval abounded. Barranquilleros, Colombianos, and brave foreigners alike flocked toward Villa 40 for the main parade of the day, La Batalla de Flores, dressed in all varieties of outrageous costumes, from representations of principle Carnaval characters to outrageous and arbitrary combinations of color and flare. The air was thick with unbridled celebration and delightful unpredictability, my favorite characteristics of Mardi Gras.
We opted out of the expensive tickets for bleacher seats—the best way to view the parades—and instead vied with thousands of other revelers for a street spot with a view. After a half hour of tippy-toed neck-stretching and one-too-many shaving cream showers (a hallmark of Barranquilla’s Carnaval, apparently, is shaving cream squirted indiscriminately and unapologetically into the crowds), we retreated to a side street, thinking it better to enjoy the raucous merriment from the periphery. We failed there, too, because as soon as these two gringas popped a squat on the sidewalk we were pounced on by the local revelers to join their fun.
It turns out that, since Western tourists aren’t yet commonplace in Colombia, the people are still extraordinarily curious and excited about our presence. Thus we spent the rest of the afternoon passed around between various Colombian friend and family groups—dancing, laughing, being drenched in shaving cream and then doused in baby powder (another Barranquilla hallmark)—in short, truly celebrating Carnaval with the locals.