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carnival, festival, llamadas

Montevideo’s annual Carnaval lasts for 40 days, remarkably making it one of the world’s lengthiest. Beginning in January, the city hosts a variety of spectacular events, culminating in a large parade in February or March. One unique feature is the murgas, where vocal and dance groups perform on improvised stages, for which you’ll need tickets.

However, the highlight for many is las llamadas (calls), when thousands pack the streets of Barrio Sur at night to watch a seemingly endless procession of groups performing the candombe drum and dance beat. Originating from Africa, this rhythm was the major way that slaves brought here were able to find relief and recall memories of their former, happier lives. Participants today dress in elaborate costumes, each group led by a gramillero (an old man, signified by a white beard) and Mamá Vieja (old woman). Many paint their faces black, a practice started during abolition when white men did so as an apology.

For the best spots to sit and watch the parades, ask at the tourist office about tickets for the grandstands. Otherwise, you can join the majority of locals in pushing through the crowds to catch a glimpse of a feather or two.

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By Emma Jones

Emma Jones, 30, is from London, and recently spent nine months enjoying travelling and writing in South America.�Her favourite...

11 Feb 2011

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