We’re a little behind here, but Carnaval in Bolivia was amazing and such a fun experience.
We started on Friday with a corso (march through the streets with a band) and a big water fight at the Kinder.
The kids were dressed up in various Halloween-type costumes with the key components being bright colors, masks, water guns and whistles!
Then Friday night we went to Montero’s corso which despite starting at 10pm and ending at 2am was a family-friendly event. It involved floats and dancing groups. Each float had it’s own “queen.”
Below is the official Montero queen, so her float was the nicest.
Saturday morning we went to Santa Cruz for a get-together of hogars in the area and each group put on a dance. Then Saturday afternoon I organized another water fight with my youth group, Infancia Missionera. (drenching #2) With the older youth group (Seguidores de Cristo) I help give a talk on chastity and why you should wait until marriage to have sex. Apparently some who out-grow water balloons celebrate Carnaval with promiscuity and condoms are given out on the streets of Santa Cruz. We didn’t experience anything like that though.
On Sunday Carnaval REALLY started, Friday and Saturday were just a warm up. We mostly spent Sunday resting and staying dry until Sunday night when we went to the Carnaval party at the Hogar. At the Hogar each “house” of girls (they are sorted by age into bedrooms, each with 15-20 girls) crowned a queen and prepared costumes and a dance. At the last minute I was asked to step up to the judge’s table and help judge who had the best queen, best choreagraphy, and best costumes. The queen’s outfits were REALLY impressive since they were all home-made with craft supplies. First, each house paraded with their queen and danced. This part involved quite a bit of sprayed foam (apparently a crucial part of a Carnaval parade) and some very loud music.
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After the parade was all-out dancing time until the food was ready. We all sat back down, queens were awarded their respective prizes and dinner was served. We had rice with green beans and tomatoes, bbq-d meat and sausage (under-cooked), boiled bananas and yucca. It was very tasty, almost worth the diarrhea we both had the next day! After the food was more dancing and the last of the foam was sprayed as the queens’ outfits slowly unraveled and the parts were carried away as prizes by the younger girls. The dancing and loud music continued for quite a while but we excused ourselves a little before 11 pm to head back with some of the Sisters.
Monday was WATER day at the Hogar! After lunch and all the chores and clothes-washing were finished for the day (all the girls 6 and over wash all their clothes themselves by hand) it was a water free for all! (Normally in Bolivian culture it is considered unhealthy to get yourself wet and children are always chastized for it, so this is a really exciting thing for them.) We showed up armed with 200 water balloons and a mini-water gun while the Sisters handed out another 600 water balloons to the girls and various buckets were acquired. We started just bombarding each other inside the Hogar until one of the workers opened the front gates and let the girls go stand by the street. It’s a pretty busy street so there were lots of opportunities to throw water balloons at motorcycles and dump buckets of mud on cars. This is where I started becoming a little more shocked by Carnaval. There were bands of people walking around the streets with water guns full of paint and other ammunition like mud and foam. Also Montero is largely a city of motorcycles and everyone who passed on a motorcycle was either carrying a water gun themselves or had someone on the back as the “gunner.” And this is where things started getting “feo” or ugly. The girls got sprayed with paint quite a few times, engaged in a war with a passing group of boys (which I’m proud to say they won), and at least one truck that passed had a man on back dumping used car oil on people. So when the Madre got wind of this she barged out and yelled at everyone to get back inside. In addition girls were sent out to scrub the paint off the walls. Though now painted and smelling of oil the girls couldn’t have been happier. Our god-daughter Carmen got oiled so after she changed her clothes I helped her try to shampoo it out. The smell didn’t really come out though. Despite that we were shocked and concerned about some of these practices, we didn’t feel we had the authority or the place to tell the girls to stop. We avoided the paint however and escaped only drenched in water. (drenching #3)
Tuesday (also a holiday from work and school because I guess it’s just useless trying to get people to stop partying) we stayed home and got caught up on laundry and sleep and got some work done for the upcoming week. Tuesday evening we had the Hogar volunteers over for our weekly community dinner, and they got bombarded by water balloons on the 1-block walk over. Other than that our Carnaval ended peacefully.