Carnaval: Barranquilla

Barranquilla, Colombia

Barranquilla’s Carnival celebration is one of the most interesting and diverse in the world. In fact, UNESCO has given its seal of approval to the annual event, dubbing it a World Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. If you want a big dose of culture with your Carnival carousing, Barranquilla puts on a good show.

Dance to all different beats

It wouldn’t be a Colombian celebration without salsa music and dancing, but Carnival in Barranquilla also features other traditional and beloved music genres. Musical styles like cumbia, mapalé, which is African-influenced, and chandé (folklore), among many others are played throughout Carnival. All are slightly different but entirely Colombian, and you can hear them during Barranquilla’s festivities.

Learn about folklore

Barranquilla’s major Carnival parade, which takes place on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, is the crowning event of Carnival and makes it clear why the city’s celebration is worthy of UNESCO’s title and upholds it. Elaborate floats pass by for hours during the parade, costumed revelers walk and troupes perform local folklore dances. Carnival celebrations here are rooted in the 1800s, with traditions still alive in today’s parades.

Know your costumes

You likely will see a few types of costumes regularly during Carnival celebrations. One of the common character costumes is La Marimonda, which involve masks with long noses, hoods and brightly colored pants and tops. These costumes originated in Baranquilla. You also will catch some royalty – every Carnival has a king and queen. The king is King Momo, and he is a major figure in the celebrations. The queen, who is chosen at the end of one celebration for the following year, oversees events like the parade and the symbolic burial of Joselito Carvajal, who as legend has it, is a man who represents the Carnival spirit and passes away after the four days of Carnival partying.

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About this author

Miranda Noland,

Miranda Noland is the Senior Photo Editor for She handles all the photo needs for the site and occasionally writes a thing or two. Growing up in a small town in Missouri, she collected (and hoarded) magazines and dreamed of working at one someday. She studied art and design at Drury University and moved to New York City after graduating. She loves being an aunt to her two nephews and has recently moved to be closer to them. She's a pop culture junkie who watches way too much television, and she still hoards magazines.