“The greatest parade in Argentina and one of the three most famous carnivals of Latino-America” that is how this carnival promotes itself. Although we lack the expertise to verify this, we definitely can say that it was very, very impressive and a lot of fun. We definitely would recommend everybody to do the trip while it is still kind of an informal event. Tours from Buenos Aires, only 3 hours south, especially for foreign tourists, just started last year!
What was so unique about this carnival was that we were as close to the dancers as you can be, in the very first row of the “Corsódromo”, a kind of stadium through which the groups parade. Close means, the dancers stopped to kiss us and we could take close up photos or even pose with them. We had come up with a whole group of about 30 people from Buenos Aires and some of us could not get enough. Especially, some Israeli girls must have asked every male dancer to stop. Not to forget two charming gentlemen from London, Brian and Obi, who had the time of their life, posing with all these lightly clad beauties!
The more daring ones occasionally jumped across the low metal barrier and ran up to the performers to have their picture taken. The police would patiently guide them back to their seat. The instructors of the group had less patience with those dancers that stopped too often to be kissed and photographed. Quite a few times they furiously pulled them back to get them in line with the other dancers.
Before we went to the Corsódromo, we had the opportunity to go to the school where the “Comparsa” is kept and we were able to take a close look at all the dresses and decor only to discover how heavy it all is! We could much more appreciate the performance of these petit ladies dancing away with god knows how many kilo tied to them. Talking about kilos: what puzzled us most was where all these hundreds of perfectly sculptured bodies, men and women alike, came from? The streets of Argentina walk the average persons, with a bit of a belly, bulging hips, cellulites, well, the usual flaws, but not in this carnival parade. We started fantasizing what the dancers in Rio may look like…
The parade of the bands started around 22:30 and by then the Corsódromo was packed with cheering people, altogether about 40.000 people that night. Each of the three groups had a motto, water was one, and the various subgroups represent this. The dancers were a swaying sea of colours of elaborately designed costumes, headdresses made of feathers and beads, more beadwork for ankles, necks, belly and wrists. The costumes can be made of lots of material or of very, very little. Sometimes it is as little as a few rows of beads. The dancers wear distinctive make up, the word glamour is taken serious here.
The floats or “Carosas” following the dancers have various levels reaching up ten meters and yes, there are little stages all the way up there with dancers moving passionately! These little platforms are less than a square meter and a small semicircular tiny reeling for the artists to hold on. We felt dizzy just by looking up.
Each group consists of 80 to 100 people, with each subgroup of about 8 to 10 participants. The last subgroup is a band of drummers and a samba dancer. That part is extremely intensive, especially at the spot where the group performs for the jury. There, you can enjoy an extra show!
The last group of dancers finished around at around 03:00 am. By then fatigue had set in a little bit and our hands were sore from banging the metal of the barriers that separated us from the dancers. This is the way to express your enthusiasm for a particular group or dancer. We left right after by bus back to Buenos Aires, where we arrived at 07:00 am Sunday morning.
Twelve hours later, we left Buenos Aires by bus again for Tucuman, in the northeast of Argentina. Since we were only in town for 12 hours during the day we had checked out from our room before going to the carnival. Now Sunday morning we were exhausted and simply crashed at the lobby of our hostel before doing some last minute sightseeing in Buenos Aires.
This last bit we would do differently going there again, we would stay overnight in Gualeguaychu. Besides, the guy who organised the trip was nice and well-meaning but a bit chaotic which resulted in a lot of waiting around. On the other hand, we must admit that he got us outstanding places, that we maybe would not have been able to buy ourselves…