¡Es una pasada! Celebrating Carnival in the Hispanic World

This is the transcription of the video above, in which Inés describes Carnival celebrations in the Hispanic world. You can choose to view the video before or after reading the text. We suggest you also listen to the audio while reading the text, chiming in with Inés from time to time to improve your pronunciation and intonation. If you just want to listen to the audio while you are doing other things, (commuting, cooking, working out…) you can get the audio track in Soundcloud

The blog entry below provides more detailed information. Read it in English first if you like. Study the Spanish version to improve your vocabulary, learn some useful new phrases, and broaden your cultural horizons, all at the same time!

English transcription

Hello! I’m Inés Alba, from Real Spanish.

Have you ever been to the Carnival celebration in any Spanish or Latin American city? It is one of the happiest and most  entertaining celebrations of the year.

Between the months of February and March, this religious and pagan festival is celebrated at the same time, which is related to Lent before Easter and the Bacchus festivals.

Each city celebrates it differently, with its own peculiarities. But the most important thing is that people are más alegre que unas pascuas. Do you know this expression? It means that a person is as happy as can be, having a great time. In Carnival, people dress up, go out to the streets to listen to music, watch the parades and are más feliz que una perdiz(literally, happier than a partridge). By the way, there are more expressions with perdiz you can consult the DRAE.

In Spain there are two cities that stand out in this celebration, Cádiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Cádiz stands out for its great sense of humor and originality. Santa Cruz de Tenerife has a Brazilian influence and the parade that takes place in the street and the election of the Carnival Queen are very important. It’s incredible!

In our  blog you can find a more detailed article about Carnival in different countries of the Hispanic world.

See you soon!

Carnival in the Hispanic World (after reading this blogpost in English, we recommend that you read it in Spanish)

Carnival is a celebration with both religious and pagan origins. It’s related to Lent, the forty days of spiritual preparation before Easter. Its pagan origins are related to the festival of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and other Roman festivals. Carnival is celebrated between February and March; the date changes because it has to begin on a Thursday, known as jueves lardero or jueves gordo (Fat Thursday). It ends on the following Tuesday, which is called Carnival Tuesday.This festival is called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in France, the United States (especially New Orleans) and Brazil; in the UK and other English-speaking countries this festival is called Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.

The origins of the word “carnival” may be the Latin carnelevarium, the prohibition of eating meat during Lent, or it may be related to carrus navalis (boat on wheels) that carried Bacchus during the Roman Bacchanalia festival.

This celebration varies a lot; each city has its own characteristics and customs, but in general it involves costumes, music, parades and street parties.

Cadiz Spain

In Spain two cities are noted for their different ways of celebrating Carnival. The Carnival of Cádiz and the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have been declared Fiestas of International Tourist Interest by the Government of Spain. The festival is also important in Águilas, Murcia and other cities such as Badajoz and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The Carnival of Cádiz is different from other Carnivals because its flair and sense of humour. People come out on the street wearing funny and very original costumes. In the Gran Teatro Falla (named for the musician Manuel de Falla, who was born in Cádiz) there are musical competitions among groups singing satirical songs or serious songs in praise of the city of Cádiz. The groups include chirigotas, comparsas, coros and cuartetos.

Carnival Cadiz

The chirigotas are the most entertaining because of their lyrics and their costumes; they usually use satire to criticise current social or political events. But they can be heard outside the theatre too; there are many groups that come out to sing in the street, and people wearing costumes listen to their songs in a joyful and amusing party atmosphere.

Carnival Cadiz

Falla Theatre in Cadiz

The Carnival of Tenerife is influenced by the Brazilian Carnival. It is noted for its colourful parade, rhythm and imagination. During the Gran Gala Carnival Queen is chosen, a beautiful young woman who is the centre of attention during the parade, wearing a huge fantastical costume. This gala to choose the Carnival Queen is broadcast on television and is one of the most anticipated and important events of the city. But this Carnival is also celebrated in the street. La Plaza de España de Santa Cruz is decorated and is full of refreshment stands or churrerías, and people go there to enjoy music in a festive atmosphere. Carnival Tuesday is the most important day because of the coso, the parade featuring the Carnival Queen and her maids of honour.

Carnival Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2

Carnival in Latin America also varies in different cities. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is the most famous in the world. There are many different ways to celebrate Carnival in Latin America, with different cultural characteristics: for example, in Oruro (Bolivia), Barranquilla (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay), Las Tablas (Panama), Veracruz (Mexico) and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).

Oruro Bolivia 2

River Plate Montevideo

The Carnival of Oruro has been listed by UNESCO as part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Religious and pagan elements are mixed with elements of folklore characteristic of Bolivia. The most important event is the parade of the Diabladas, groups of people dressed up as devils representing the gods of the pre-Columbian religion of the Andes.

The Diabladas parade in their costumes, performing dances typical of the whole country. In total, 52 groups parade as a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Virgin of Socavón (deeply worshipped in this city). When they arrive at the church, the dancers enter on their knees and beg a favour from their Virgin.

Carnaval Oruro Bolivia Oruro Bolivia

Oruro Iglesia del Socavon

candomble Montevideo

The Carnival of Montevideo is said to be the longest Carnival in the world because it lasts 40 days. Montevideo was chosen as Capital Iberoamericana del Carnaval in 2008. The interesting thing about this Carnival is the mixture of elements of Spanish origin, such as the murgas (songs with humorous satirical lyrics expressing social and political criticism) and the candombe, music and dance of African origin that have been preserved since the colonial era by the descendants of enslaved Africans.

The carnival starts with a great parade in mid-January and goes on till the beginning of March, with musical performances and smaller parades in different neighbourhoods.

carnaval Montevideo

If you’ve been to Carnival, tell us about it below, in English or in Spanish.

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