The celebrations of Carnaval began last night. In Buenos Aires 30 streets around the city were blocked so more than 30 corsos could take place every weekend until the end of February, Saturdays from 7pm – 2 am and Sundays from 7 pm to midnight. A corso is a carnival foot parade. More than 105 murgas with more than 17,000 members were chosen in pre carnaval competitions by panel of experts in music, wardrobe, dance and larger than life dolls and puppets. A murga is not quite like a Brazilian Samba School but more like a second line parade with a script. Murga has been one of the forms of social art that more grew in Argentina, at the greater rate than the political and economic crises.
King Momo seized again the bodies and souls of more than 17,000 people, who got the 2009 Carnival dancing and singing in 105 murgas at the 30 corsos that were organized simultaneously in different districts from all the city. With ingenious names and colors the murgas, for more than ten years considered a cultural patrimony of the city, put rhythms to the barrios.
Carnaval celebrations go all the way back to 1869. That year the first corso took place in Buenos Aires, with comparsas of black and “blackened” whites, that shone with their costumes and their rhythm, while their singing and their wild and harmonic dancing shot legs and arms into the air. The music of La cumparsita, which means a small comparsa, was originally written as a marching song for a small murga of college students in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Back in the nineteen sixties, in the city of Buenos Aires the celebration of carnaval was a time of the year to let go of inhibitions and take to the streets to dance, parade and become part of a masked crowd that moved about the city engulfed in a cacophony of drums, chants and popular tunes. It was all about coming out.
As it happened during our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, all the popular social clubs offered the possibility to dance to the greatest orchestras of that time. The announcements filled full pages in the newspapers. Posters, fliers and hand bills were all over the city walls and sidewalks. In retrospect, the choices were overwhelming. Anibal Troilo in Avellaneda at the Racing Club. Osvaldo Pugliese in Atlanta at Villa Crespo. Juan D’Arienzo at Club Atletico Boca Juniors. Carlos Di Sarli at Velez Sarfield. Francisco Canaro at the Luna Park.
Carnaval was a time for venturing out and it was the greatest time to be young and bold at the end of summer in Buenos Aires. Carnaval was a time when eyes made the first contact from behind a mask, encouraging the shy to be daring, reassuring the undecided to take a chance to openly express the feeling of attraction.
That New Orleans, the Crescent City, is part of the United States baffles a visitor’s mind. Long after the city was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase, traces of nobility, aristocracy and the diversity of races, languages and cultural traits seem to preserve the rituals of celebration of the greatest free show on earth. They call it Mardi Gras, but it is carnaval minus tango. So we take a break from the ritual of the embrace and embrace the ritual of parades.
The Krewe de Vieux rolls through the French Quarter
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