Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia

I am a big fan of carnivals. I used to live in Tenerife/Spain (holds the biggest carnival in Southern Europe) and in Aalborg/Denmark (holds the biggest carnival in Northern Europe), so you can imagine that I had some experience before I went to Oruro carnival. The beauty of the first two mentioned carnivals was that everyone had a costume on and it was so funny that I couldn’t stop laughing. Oruro carnival is a bit different. Like other South American carnivals, it is mostly the parade that is attractive. And Oruro didn’t disappoint. No wonder that this carnival is one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It was originally an indigenous festival that was later transformed to the Christian ritual. The main parade lasts from Saturday early morning to Sunday late evening and it is dedicated to the performance of dozens music and dance bands, mainly from the the Oruro province. I write it on purpose that “mainly” from Oruro, because there was even a band from Germany and they have earned a huge applause from our CS tribune. Sehr gut gemacht!

Aren’t these colors amazing?

One the many bands at the Oruro Carnival

German band having fun 🙂

All of us – couchsurfers – bought the seats on the tribune to watch the parade closely. After the first warm-up days, we were a well coordinated group of party people and we were enthusiastically welcoming all performing bands. The first groups on Saturday morning were the most interesting ones and I couldn’t stop staring at their costumes. Juan Carlos said that they were the most traditional ones so it was worth getting up so early. It was also the best time to take some photos, because the tribunes were not that crowded and people were not that crazy about spraying “espuma”. Ah, did I forget to mention this? This tradition is almost as important as the parade. People just spray shaving foam on each other and for some reason it is meant to be funny… Maybe I am getting older or what, but after 15 minutes of foam spraying, it was a bit annoying. But ok, I understand that children and men (of all ages) like to play, so let it be. A good tip for all gringos (all people that are not locals) is to have a rain coat on at all times, because we are the main object of the attention and you can get really wet ☺

Little boys having fun with shaving foam

Girls having fun

In overall, I really liked this new experience of seeing something completely different that we have in Europe and learning so much about the traditions in Bolivia. I would recommend to the other travelers to join the Oruro carnival. At the same time, there is one thing that I have to share, to perhaps prevent in the future…

This is a big street party. And as there are fantastic, hospitable and helpful people, there are also people that want to abuse the celebration and create damage. Unfortunately many of my CS friends got robbed. Some robberies were the “standard” ones, taking something (small camera, wallet) out of the pocket. But there were also robberies where the thieves sprayed pepper spray directly into someone’s eyes. And that is not cool. At the end everyone was ok, but the feeling of being attacked was very unpleasant. Don’t get me wrong, this shouldn’t be something that should disencourage you from going to Oruro and spending the carnival there. This can happen anywhere (also happened at “my peaceful lake” Cunovo in Bratislava). Just be aware this kind of situation can happen and try to avoid it – if possible. Other good thing to have in mind when partying and drinking at carnival, is that it is not worth bringing your camera (you don’t have to appear on facebook photos drunk, right?), your credit card (just take some cash) and no-way of taking your passport (copy is enough).

Viva el carnival! I can’t wait for the next one somewhere on this planet ☺ Stay tuned for the next post to discover what happened after the carnival and after our dinner in a local pizzeria…

Maritza and I watching the parade

5 Comments on “Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia

  1. Pingback: Bolivia – Part 1: Carnival warm-up | Unboxing Traveller

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  4. We’ll be heading to Carnival in Oruro this year, can’t wait! It looks so vibrant and fun! One question…how long do you recommend staying in Oruro for? Great photos btw 🙂

    • Hey Brigid, sorry for my late answer. I arrived to Oruro 2 days before the carnival and I left one day after. I recommend to be used to the altitude in Bolivia before you go there, so you don’t get the altitude sickness and you’ll be more energetic to party. Have fun! 🙂

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