Saturday, November 10, 2007

Parade of the Candidates in Cartagena

We are lucky to be in Cartagena for their biggest yearly blowout. This is around their Independence day and the contest for Miss Columbia. Candidates from all over the country are competing for the title and this country takes it's beauty contests seriously. This is the only news for almost a week.
The holiday is five days long but the celebrations go one for over a week! Every day there are parades. The first day was a formal presentation of the candidates, all in white, with their escorts through the center of the city - a small affair with only a few bands and dancers. See our blog entry labeled San Fernando Fiesta for two pictures of a few of the girls and their partners.

The big parade was the next day, the first out of work holiday, and the whole city closed down for it. Hundreds of police and army personnel kept the thousands in some order and shut down the streets to cars. The candidates are on big floats, standing and dancing, surrounded by dancing groups and bands, and cheered on by their supporters The dancers vary enormously from the very young to the very old, men and women both. The energy shown by the older ones amazed us all, and there were a lot of dancers over 70. Many of our cruiser friends were frightened off by the crowds and we were one of the few who stayed for the whole parade (and were close up). Eight of us went down an hour before the parade was supposed to start.
Of course it was three hours before it actually came past us. But we had front row seats on the curb as you can see from my pictures! This festival has a trick or treat quality to it. Motor oil, corn flour, water and paint figure into the "trick" component. Young men/boys wander throughout the city all week covered in motor oil or paint and carrying small buckets
You either give them a coin or get a sample. Water and flour are just generally thrown around! One young women came up to Scott and decorated his face for him - doesn't he look pleased (she was very pretty). You can see the crowds in this shot here with the army patroling the city walls. Waiting all that time worked up an appetite in most of us. Restaurants and bars were all closed but every vendor in the city was out supplying the crowd. We enjoyed the crisp plantain chips, popcorn, ice cream and cervezas. Once the parade was over it was a long walk home through the city among the crowds but we had plenty of change and it was fun watching people. The next day the candidates moved onto the water! Each one stood in a boat rowed by four naval officers and took part in a huge boat parade through the harbor. Finally the judging itself took place in the beautiful convention center down town.

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