Forty days before Easter marks a grand occasion in many countries across the world – Carnival. We’re composing this blog during a couple of hours of well-needed downtime from the second largest of them all: Barranquilla, Colombia.

Outside of Carnival season Barranquilla is a relatively ordinary city which doesn’t tend to  attract the throngs of tourists that flock to its beautiful coastal neighbours such as Cartagena and Santa Marta. However, for one long weekend of the year there is no more popular tourist attraction than Barranquilla. Hotels are booked out months in advance and the masses flood to town with just one thing on their mind – partying. As it happens, the locals start ‘preparing’ for Carnival about a month before the actual event with, well, more partying.

UNESCO hailed Barranquilla Carnival as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’. Whatever on earth that means, it makes it sound fabulously impressive and so, from what I’ve witnessed so far, I’ll go along with it.

The focus of Carnival during the day are the numerous parades that take place around different parts of the city. These can be up to 5 or 6 hours long and feature a continuous stream of floats, dancers and performers strutting their moves in glorious waves of colour and mesmerizing patterns.

When the sun sets and the last of the performers reach the end of the road, the dancing baton is handed to the masses who assume their role with fervent gusto at street parties and open-air nightclubs across the city.

Carnival, while only being a few days long, provides a major boost to Barranquilla’s economy. Prices for food, drink and taxis are inflated but, in the spirit of things, no-one seems to mind. Importantly, Carnival is of great significance to small-scale entrepreneurs such as hat-makers, artisans and food-stall owners. It’s also an important time for Kiva Field Partner FMSD who provide loans to these entrepreneurs so that they can invest in stock to meet the high demand.

Amid a hazy but fantastic blur of dancing, costume, body paint, music, foam, corn flour and the odd Aguila beer, John managed to capture a few photos of this amazing spectacle. Enjoy!

Words by Nick Hamilton, photos by John Gwillim, KF14

Batalla de Flores -  Saturday March 5, 2011

The first, and largest, parade of Carnival kicked off on Saturday afternoon.

Warming up before the parades starts

"Hugo Chávez" and "Simón Bolívar" spend some time together before the parade begins

Foam, water, beer, flour--I was covered in all of them while shooting during the parade route.


The crowds were massive! There was opening seating for free, as well as paid seating in chairs and grandstands. Some of the nicest VIP seating included waitstaff and food, but the seats were up to $250 each.

Parada Floclórica Carlos Franco – Sunday, March 6, 2011

A much smaller parade with a more community feel didn’t include the huge floats from Saturday’s parade, but was still very fun and highlighted some amazing costumes and dancing.


Stay tuned to the Fellows Blog this Wednesday to read about more carnival stories from Latina America!!!

John and Nick at the Batalla de Flores

Nick Hamilton is currently serving with Interactuar in Medellín, Colombia and John Gwillim is in Barranquilla, Colombia with Fundación Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD) as part of KF14.

Interested in learning more about Fundación Mario Santo Domingo?  Visit their page on Kiva here!


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