Festivals and events

There are more festivals, parties and carnivals in Colombia than days in the year. Every city, town and village has at least three or four annual events in which local products and traditions are celebrated with music, dancing and raucous revelry (these are listed throughout the book). Below are some of the most significant.

January

Feria de Manizales, 2-3 January,
 festivities include horse parades, beauty pageants, bullfighting and a general celebration of all things coffee in Manizales. Carnaval de los Blancos y Negros
, 5-6 January, the city of Pasto celebrates one of Latin America's oldest carnivals in which everyone daubs each other in black grease and
white flour to commemorate the emancipation
of black slaves. Celebrations begin late Dec with communal water fights and floats. There is dancing, parades and lots of costumes.
Carnaval del Diablo
, from 5-10 January, where the town of Ríosucio in Caldas has celebrated this homage to the devil every 2 years since 1915. The whole town effectively becomes a masked ball as locals dress up as devils and other characters in a festival in which Hispanic, black and indigenous traditions collide.
 January is bullfighting season in Colombia and many towns hold events. Most famous of these is the Corraleja at Sincelejo, a sometimes brutal show in which the town's youth display their bravura against 40 bulls released into a ring. Injuries - even deaths - are frequent.

February

Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
, on 2 Feburary, is celebrated in towns, including Cartagena and Medellín, this religious cult festival was inherited from the Canary Islands, where 2 goatherds witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary holding a green candle.

February-March

Barranquilla Carnival
(moveable)
, beginning 4 days before Ash Wednesday, this is one of the best carnivals in South America. 4 days of partying are compulsory by law and involve parades and plenty of dancing.

March-April

Semana Santa
(movable)
, celebrated almost everywhere in Colombia, but the processions in Popayán (the 2nd largest in the world after Sevilla, Spain), Mompós and Pamplona are particularly revered.

April

Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata, 26-30 April, is
 one of the most important music festivals in Colombia, 4 days of hard partying in Valledupar culminate in the selection of the best
vallenato
musician.

June-July

From
 22 June-2 Jul
y the city of Neiva hosts
Bambuco
dancing competitions and various parades in which bikini-clad beauty queens float downriver on boats while up to 5000 (often) drunken women ride horseback
 through Neiva's streets. It culminates in the crowning of a
Bambuco
queen. From 28 June-2 Jul
y is the Torneo Internacional del Joropo
. The city of Villavicencio gives itself over to a celebration of
llanero
culture with more than 3000 couples dressed in traditional outfits dance
Joropo
in the streets, a large horse parade, a beauty contest and
coleo
(a type of rodeo) making up the events.

August

Feria de la Flores, 1-10 August, with c
oncerts, street parties, antique car parades, a
Paso Fino
horse parade and the
Desfile de Silleteros
, in which flower-growers file through the city streets carrying their elaborate displays mounted on wooden 'chairs', have made this festival in Medellín a world-renowned event.

The Festival del Viento y de Cometas
 in Villa de Leiva sees the enormous cobbled plaza filled with hundreds of kite-fliers displaying models of all shapes and sizes. Competition is fierce.

September

Jazz al Parque
 Bogotá's parks resonate to the sound of pianos, saxophones and trumpets during this festival that has grown exponentially since it first began in 1996. Musicians from all over the world converge on Colombia's capital for a weekend. For 20 days in late Sep/early Oct, the streets of Quibdó in El Chocó convert themselves into a big party venue to commemorate the death of Saint Francis of Assisi for
Fiestas de San Pacho. Religious processions, parades and
sancocho
cookouts all combine in this fusion of Catholicism and African customs.

October

Encuentro Mundial del Coleo
: more than 40,000 people descend on Villvicencio each year to watch mounted cowboys display their skills at
coleo
, a sport not dissimilar to rodeo that involves upending bulls by grabbing them by the tail and twisting until they fall over. Concurso Mundial de la Mujer Vaquera
is where the female population of the Llanos proves why they have better cowboy skills than men.

November

In late November,
El Pirarucú de Oro takes place.
 This music festival in Leticia reflects the Colombian Amazon capital's position on the edge of 2 frontiers. With influences from Brazil and Peru, the festival hosts a competition that celebrates music from the region. During the first two weeks of Nov
ember is the Independence of Cartagena and Concurso Nacional de la
 Belleza.
 Cartagena celebrates being the first department to win independence from the Spanish each 11 Nov with parades and traditional dancing in the streets. This has been somewhat supplanted by the National Beauty Pageant in which the winner will go on to represent Colombia at Miss Universe.

December

Festival de Luces
, 7-8 December. The skies above Villa de Leiva are lit by one of the best pyrotechnic shows in Colombia while the streets of this colonial town are illuminated by hundreds of candles in this most picturesque of festivals. Feria de Cali
, 25-30 December, what started as a bullfighting festival involving the best Spanish and South American matadors is now a city-wide party where Cali's self-imposed title of 'capital of salsa' is reaffirmed every year. The festival is opened by an impressive
Paso Fino
horse parade.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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