Thursday, September 25, 2008

Uruguay, a different Carnival

(The opening parade of Carnival Uruguay 2008)

Now that we are back, it was time to get into the carnival spirit. On the program were of course the Llamadas of which we had heard so much. But in addition to that there was also the Teatro de Verano (it is named after someone, and doesn't mean Summer Theater as it might have if you translated it from the Spanish) and plenty of shows all around town.

(Teatro de Verano skit)

Before we left for our Uruguay tour we did catch the opening parade of the Carnival. We bought tickets to seats along the route. Something I haven't seen anywhere else (at least not on this scale). They set up rows of chairs along the carnival route, making for a pretty orderly viewing experience. Of course you might miss the walking around and catching the show from various vantage points. The advantage is that everyone gets a good view, including those vertically challenged. The opening parade included, floats, marching bands, dancing and lots of color and noise. All the children in town seem to also take part either in the parade itself or playing among the floats and the marchers. All the carnival troupes took part, so it was a very long parade.

(Homer and co, selling Mobile phones and liguid yogurt drinks)

One thing that to me seemed to stand out was the comercilization of the event. Lots of "comercial" floats (a float is a car/truck or vehicle, decorated and used as a platform for people, music, or other entertainment).

(Some more Teatro de Verano skits)

The various troupes would do shows of various types, comedy, musical, dance or a mixture at various venues around town during the duration of the carnival. In addition to this there were also "wandering minstrels" who would do a "show" on a bus, or in the middle of a crowd or pretty much anywhere where they had an audience. The bus guys had a captive audience and would often include the passangers in their routines. As we rode the buses around Montevideo extensively, we caught a few of these. A lot of the humor would be political or social satire, so we missed some of the jokes regarding current events, but the rest of the passengers seemed to find it pretty funny. Of course at the end, they would solicit a donation.

(Teatro de Verano)

Teatro de Verano is an open air theater in a huge park in central Montevideo near the beach. Here during the carnival season the various carnival clubs put on "shows". Depending on the type of club that it is they will put on a musical show, a theater piece, a satyrical show or something in between. The show we caught consisted of four troupes doing their, songs, skits and music and dancing. It is very colorful, loud and funny. The music is a major player in all of this, and most of the troupes release a CD with the years music. So on this night we were treated to theater skits, comedy routines, carnival music, plenty of dancing and singing, and some good food thrown in.

(The Llamadas)

The Llamadas turned out to be a parade of dancers followed by large assembly of drummers. Again, very colorful, each troupe has it's own costumes and colors, but the music is always the same (or similar). Very rhythmic if a bit monotonous or is that monotone? Unfortunately, just as we were getting into the spirit, it started raining. We got out of there just as a torrential downpour began. Once back at the house, we watched the rest of the happenings on tv. Turns out we didn't miss anything, as they broke off the parade when the rain started in earnest, although as the troupes are in competition those who had not yet paraded wanted to parade, and did so. Unfortuantely for them, the judges had already packed their bags and headed to drier ground. In the end those who had not yet marched when the jury took off, were invited to march on the following night (the Llamadas runs a couple of nights as there are so many troupes involved they can't all parade in a single night).

(Opening night, and the Llamadas side by side)

With that our Uruguay Carnival experience came to an end. As with all carnivals around the world, very colorful, very loud and boisterous. This carnival, had a bit of Brazil, and bit of New Orleans and lots of Uruguay.

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