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What Kicked Off in Uruguay that Lasts for 40 Days?

Desfile de Llamadas al ritmó del candombé. Imagen en Flickr de la usuaria mabel flores (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Llamadas parade to the rhythms of candombe. Image on Flickr by user Mabel Flores (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The Uruguayan Carnival (“the longest carnival in the world”) kicked off on January 21, 2016. It's a popular celebration carried out nationwide between mid-January and late February that combines festivities of European and African origins over a period of 40 days, where theatrical shows, dances, colors, and the sound of drums are the rule.

The Uruguayan Carnival has two main aspects, the murgas and the candombe, as explained by Guillermo Font:

[…] no son antagónicas sino que más bien se complementan: las murgas, de origen español, cuyas letras tienen un alto contenido de humor y sátira social y política, la voz del pueblo, y jugaron un importante papel socio-cultural durante la dictadura (1973-84), y el candombe, de origen afro-negro, que recrea los orígenes africanos de los negros esclavos y la época colonial, con sus trajes, cantos y bailes típicos, culturas y religiones, y su evolución natural hasta nuestros días. Se suman las otras categorías Humoristas, Parodistas y Revistas.

[…] they don't oppose each other, but rather complement each other: the murgas, of Spanish origin, are rich in humor and social and political satire lyrics. They work with the voice of the people, and had an important socio-cultural role during the dictatorship (1973-84); and the candombe, of African origin, recreates the African origins of the black slaves and colonial times, with clothings, chants, and typical dances, cultures, and religions, and their natural evolution to this day. To these items, other categories (such as Humorists, Parodists and Varieties) are added.

The murgas express the “essence of people's sentiment“:

La categoría Murgas es conceptualmente un natural medio de comunicación, transmite la canción del barrio, recoge la poesía de la calle, canta los pensamientos del asfalto. Es una forma expresiva que trasunta el lenguaje popular, con la veta de rebeldía y romanticismo.

La murga, esencia del sentir ciudadano, conforma una verdadera autocaricatura de la sociedad, por donde desfilan identificados y reconocidos, los acontecimientos salientes de la misma, lo que la gente ve, oye y dice, tomado en chanza y en su aspecto insólito, jocoso y sin concesiones y si la situación lo requiriera, mostrará la dureza conceptual de su crítica, que es su verdadera esencia.

The murga category is conceptually a natural means of communication, it conveys the song of the neighborhood, it collects the street poetry, sings the feelings of the road. It's an expressive way that exudes popular language, with the seam of rebellion and romanticism.

The murga—the essence of citizen of people's sentimento—makes out a real self portrait of society, where they march identified and recognized, its noted events, what people see and say, wittily approached, and its unusual aspect, humorous and without licences and, if the situation requires it, it will show the conceptual roughness of its criticism, its true essence.

Meanwhile, candombe is a cultural manifestation of African origin that:

[…] es una manifestación espiritual, que representa los sentimientos del pueblo Afroriental. En él se conjugan, las tradiciones de los pueblos de Benguela, Angola y Kongo junto a lo de los españoles, portugueses, guaraníes, charrúas y chanás.

[…] is a spiritual manifestation, that represents the popular feelings of the Afroeastern people. There, traditions from the Benguelas, Angolas, and Kongos, along with the Spanish, Portuguese, Guaranies, Charruas, and Chanas get combined.

Along with tango, there is candombe fue declarado, which is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity de la humanidad by UNESCO. It is part of Uruguay's African legacy:

El candombe ha sido tan fuerte, profundo y esencial que en lugar de haber desaparecido […] se ha convertido en un elemento cultural que identifica a Uruguay.
[…]
En su época cumbre, los africanos organizaban el candombe todos los domingos y en las grandes fiestas de Año Nuevo, Navidad, Resurrección, San Benito, Virgen de Rosario y San Baltasar.

Candombe has been so strong, deep and essential that, instead of disappearing […] has become an identifying cultural element of Uruguay. […]

During its high point, Africans organized candombe every Sunday and during the major festivities of New Year, Christmas, Resurrection, St. Benedict, Virgin of the Rosary, and St. Balthasar.

The traditional ways of celebration of the Uruguayan Carnival are three: theater-musical representations, dances and entourages, marches and parades, such as the llamadas.

Unprecedented. Montevideo goes through 40 days of celebration with the kicking off of the longest carnival in the world, the Uruguayan Carnival.

During the opening parade of the carnival in Uruguay, a new rhythm was born, “candomambo”, fussion of mambo and candombe – Candombe is it!

This is the longest carnival in the world and can go on during two months.

If you like murgas… Follow the Uruguayan carnival here.

The website Carnaval del Uruguay includes a complete list (in Spanish) of the activities that will be held during these days of celebrations.

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