Carnaval de Negros y Blancos

( Blacks and Whites' Carnival )
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Blacks and Whites' Carnival (Spanish: Carnaval de Negros y Blancos), is the largest and most important festival in south Colombia. Although its geographical indication belongs to the city of Pasto it has also been adopted by other municipalities in Nariño and the southwest of Colombia. It is celebrated from 2 to 7 January of each year and attracts a considerable number of Colombian and foreign tourists.

On 30 September 2009, this Carnival was proclaimed by UNESCO, as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Great Parade, 6 January 2007

The Carnival of Blacks and Whites has its origins in the fusion of multiple cultures and expressions, corresponding to the Andes, the Amazon and the Pacific culture. The carnival of blacks and whites was first celebrated in the 16th century in 1546. This fact characterises and distinguishes it from other similar expressions, starting with the date on which it is performed, which has a distinctly indigenous origin, since it coincides with the celebration of the Moon (Quilla), which is reminiscent of the rituals performed by the Pastos and the Quilla singas, agrarian cultures who, at harvest time, honoured the moon with dances, and in other rituals they prayed to the sun, to protect their crops.

These celebrations, with the fusion and influence of Spanish culture, gave rise to Hispanic-religious syncretism, which generated expressions of what would become the Pasto carnival. In the 19th century, the authorities prohibited these festivities to avoid indigenous uprisings, and around 1834 the festivities of the Indians with their children reappeared, the mestizos with masquerades and mainly local people's celebrations, all duly framed in the religious calendar, mainly with the festivities of the Virgen de las Mercedes (24 September) and the Immaculate Conception of Mary (8 December).

Strictly speaking, the modern carnival, arise at the dawn of an Epiphany day on 6 January 1912, based on the need to express imagination, play, friendship and sharing the joy that around that time of the year revives. In a fine and exclusive brothel in the city, the House of the Misses Robby located in the Calle Real (Royal Street, current 25th Carrera), was the place where the audacity of Don Angel Maria Lopez Zarama, renowned tailor of the city, leads him to take the French face powder of one of the most requested ladies and proceeds to gently spread the powder and some woman's perfume among all those present with the slogan "¡Vivan los Blanquitos!" (live the Whiteys!). Soon, the companions of the master cutter and victims of the powder, join the game. Then, everyone would go out to repeat the joke with the unsuspecting parishioners exiting the Kings' Mass from the nearby church of San Juan Bautista, repeating: "¡Que vivan los Negros y que vivan los Blancos!" (here live the Blacks and here live the Whites!)[1] that expression under the custody of Galeras was inserted with force and forever into the essence of Pasto.

Comparsa prepared for a parade, 6 January 2008.

However, other cultures and expressions have contributed to the formation of the intricate identity of Pasto's Carnival festivities. This fact characterizes and differentiates it between similar expressions.

Its genesis is also rooted in the rituals performed by the Quillacingas, an agrarian culture, which, at harvest time danced honoring the moon and prayed to the sun, asking protection for their crops.

Whites' day players, January 2007.

These ancestral celebrations, with the merger and influence of Spanish culture, give rise to syncretism Hispanic-religious, generating early expressions of what will be the Carnaval of Pasto. In the early 19th century, the colonial authorities banned the holidays to prevent Indian uprisings, by 1834 Indian festivals reappear with churumbeles, mestizos with masquerades and hullabaloo of neighbors mostly, of course all these parties properly framed in the religious calendar, mainly with the festivities of the Virgin of Mercy (24 September) and Immaculate Conception (8 December).

In those times, on the eve of the Epiphany also performed spontaneously festive the blackies' game, mainly between whites and mestizos, because of the scarcity of black people in Pasto, the holiday contrasted the extroversion of a community marked by a peaceful and taciturn life, who had in those days an opportunity to break the rules and release the spirit.

The blackie game origin was a blacks' "asueto" (holiday), originated in the Great Cauca, old region to which belonged Pasto. In 1607 there was a slave rebellion in Remedios, Antioquia, which caused panic among the colonial authorities. This event was remembered by the large black population in Popayán who demanded a day of rest in which they would be truly free. To preserve social peace, the Spanish Crown granted to this end 5 January:

"The Prince, Day Off for Black Slaves". Now understanding the relationship and request of many black slaves in that province, have come to tell you that paternally hosts the request and will be granted a day off entirely to blacks and will be on 5 January, the eve of the feasts of the Holy Majesties and venerating with regard the Holy Majesty of the Black King. Dated in Madrid." I the Prince.[2]

Blacks' day player, 5 January 2007.

That news was announced by proclamation in Popayán and thus was 5 January declared free day for people of color, the black population of the capital of Cauca took to the streets dancing to African music and began to paint the famous black-white walls of that town. Later this custom was watered to the south, taking an unusual strength in the cold city of Pasto, where the chronicler José Maria Córdoba Moure, said that there are traces of it was played as early as 1854.

This is how was configured the genesis of Blacks and Whites' game in Pasto, and that way would pass its first decade, yet lacking the inclusion of other arts, as the Great Parade of the floats, the comparsas and murgas, which would gradually will be joining the celebration, to enrich and shape the identity of this peculiar carnival.

Side view of Pachá Carnaval in the Great Parade, 6 January 2006.

It wasn't until the mid-1920s when the actual celebration was acquiring its corpus, which merge other instances, dates and places, giving it a more urban and inclusive style. On 6 January 1926, senior students from the high schools and the University of Nariño decided to participate actively in the party, choosing as his queen to Romelia Martinez, and go out through the streets dressed in carnival costumes and dancing to the regional music. That was the first real Parade not of traditional Epiphany but Whites' Day.

By 4 January 1929, a cavalcade of over a hundred riders preparing to cheer up the Blacks (5) and Whites' (6) game, for it had been concentrated near the Boyaca Battalion. At three p.m. when the riders were ready for the parade, a whole family arrived, there was the father, the mother, two girls, two boys, three young men who rode tired nags and who were followed by laborers whom herded the mules charged with trunks, and trying the pigs and sheep did not disband. That people was loaded with lugging cages with parrots and monkeys, not to mention the "mica"(pot). The father was an Antioqueño settler traveling with all his family, who after spending many years in the east (Putumayo Department), had decided to leave the jungle to return to "civilized" earth .

Alfredo Torres and Carlos Martínez Arellano Madroñero, parade organizers, ordered, two of the ride to open countryside and no shorts or lazy included the tired travelers among the cavalcade. Those who came from the east were joyful by this unexpected encounter and ignoring why so animated "bumper" were placed at the center of the parade, and surrounded by the riders in the process of promoting the carnival. The head of the family greeted the crowds who witnessed the passage of the ride.

Arrival of the Castañeda Family, 4 January 2007.

Then, the historic shout echoed through the city: "Viva la Famila Castañeda" (Hurray to Castañeda Family!) That was invention of Torres Arellano, worthy of his talent, and passed into posterity as a new and original sign joy. The settler and his people paraded happy and excited, through the streets of the city. The unexpected passengers received the cheers of thousands of Pastusos along roads, squares and avenues of the capital of Nariño.[3] At the end of the parade, members of the Castañeda Family asked to his new friends to accompany them to the Hotel Paris where they would stay. The hotel was located in the Calle Real (Royal Street), where now stands the "Zuchín" building at 25th Carrera between 17th and 18th Streets.

Other versions said the Castañeda family characterized in the comparsas on 4 January is also a cartoon of Bucheli Ayerbe family, one of whose members Don Julian Bucheli Ayerbe, became the first governor of Nariño, at the break of the 20th century.

Until the advent of Carnavalito (Children's Carnival), the parade of the Castañeda family would become the opening of the Carnival. The decades of the 1930s and 1940s watched a structured Carnival, and before the advent of the first heavy industries, acquires presence and prominence folk art, particularly the creative expression of the artisans represented in monumental paper sculptures, just like mobile motorized scenarios built on trucks, the famous floats.

In the 1950s, the Mayor's office began to reward the best comparsas and murgas

In the 1950s, the figures of the main floats acquired movement, and thanks to the work of the master artisan Alfonso Zambrano began a new era of splendor. During this time, beginning the Mayor of Pasto (sometimes with participation of the Government of Nariño) to take control and organization of the festivities, especially the appropriation of resources to fund the awards for best floats, which were extended soon to the comparsas and murgas.

In the late 1960s started the search and recruitment of national and international commercial orchestras, the most famous were Venezuelan Los Melódicos, Billo's Caracas Boys and Ecuadorian Medardo and his Players. In that years, Luis Quenguan was the first cameraman, who made a record in film (black and white) of 8 mm, Super 8 and 16 mm of the Carnivals.[4] In 1966, thanks to Don Mario Fernando Rodriguez, arises in the Bolivar neighborhood, the Carnavalito, or Children's Carnival, this autonomous party will take at least a decade in joining the official program.

Tinkunni winner float of 2008 Great Parade

With the arrival of the Pan-American Highway in the 1970s and the greater inclusion of Pasto in the Colombian economy, the Carnival was renewed with the presence of new trends in materials handling, new rhythms and a growing stream cultural advocated by the rediscovery of the Quillacingas roots following with the activism in the Great Parade or Whites' Day. Was at that time that the floats were filled with figures and references to various social demands of the Pastusos. Anyway, in those years was made the first color footage of the parade on 6 January, again in charge of Master Luis Quenguan.[4]

For the 1980s, the multiplicity of cultural trends around the Carnival and the yuppie style highlights the need for creating a strong Corporation to assume the planning, organizing and executing of this event. It was planned that the institution had involvement of both the City of Pasto, as industrial and commercial sector, artisans and of course, the academics from the region.

In this decade the populations near Pasto, began to assemble their own carnivals, some ephemeral as Greens' Carnival in the city of Ipiales (now Carnival of the Frontier) and other more durable as the Reds's Carnival in the city of Buesaco. The predominant note is that throughout the southwestern region of Colombia, became widespread festivities that coincided with the end of year celebrations that took borrowed elements of the now popular Blacks and Whites' Carnival.

This reality has two attempts for establishment of an institution to ensure the preservation of the feasts of Pasto, but efforts of the mid-1980s, and the start of the 1990s, were not fruitful because the various sectors involved don't agree, it will be the Mayor of Pasto, which still managed the festival through a special Undersecretary's Office called the Carnival Office, this office began to concern about the loss of identity of Blacks and Whites' Carnival, mainly with the massive introduction of the Ecuadorian canned foam. Was at this time of upheaval, which massifies the use of the now traditional expression: "¡Viva Pasto, Carajo!" (Hurray Pasto, Carajo!)

21st century

Finally, in November 2001, by Law No 706, Blacks and Whites' Carnival was declared "Cultural Heritage of the Nation" by the Colombian Congress[5] and with such declaration, took priority the construction of the Plaza of Carnival and Culture, signaling the Senda del Carnaval (Carnival Path) and the creation of the Corpocarnaval (Carnival Corporation) as an entity of private law, associative, with mixed participation, for non-profit and common good, providing adequate and proper conduct of Carnival, which rescues as: "a transverse cultural playful expression in the urban context".[6] Therefore, one of its first tasks was the creation of the Museo del Carnaval (Carnival Museum).

With these achievements, began a new era of this event, characterized by the planning, organization, dissemination, research and modernization, taking priority the promotion of culture and addressing controversial issues like whether or not to negotiate the broadcast rights for radio, television and internet. Now, the Blacks and Whites' Carnival have been officially included in government plans of the municipality of Pasto, but managed by an autonomous office, which had as main project, its recognition and accreditation with the international community and agencies such as the Unesco, definitively introducing these celebrations in the globalized world, such as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This goal was finally achieved on 30 September 2009.[7]

^ More at Zarama de la Espriella, Germán; Muñoz Cordero Lydia Inés, "Blacks and Whites' Carnival" (in Spanish), Pasto, Corporación Autonoma de los Carnavales del Municipio de Pasto, 1992. ^ Benavides Rivera, Neftalí, "Blackie game origins" (in Spanish), Revista Cultura Nariñense, Vol. 2, No. 18, Pasto, diciembre de 1969, p. 43. ^ Benavides Rivera, Naphtali, "Kar A. Melo points (Old Pasto Stamps)" (in Spanish), Pasto, Tipografia Javier, 1983, p. 25. ^ a b Viztaz Taller de la imagen (2003). "Senior Photographer Luis Quenguán" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 28 April 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2009. ^ Cite error: The named reference Colombian Senate was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Corpocarnaval (2003). "Corpocarnaval Philosophy, Carnival Conceptual Motto" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 6 January 2007. Retrieved 25 September 2009. ^ UNESCO (30 September 2009). "Carnaval de Negros y Blancos". UNESCO. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
Photographies by:
Etienne Le Cocq - CC BY 3.0
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