It’s that time of the year when Latin America celebrates the festival known as Carnival. The two week festival at the end of Lent is the equivalent to the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. See the following article from International Living for more on this.
It’s time to get out the dancing shoes, the party clothes and perhaps a costume or two: Carnival time is almost here. And if you’d like to spend Carnival in a destination that does this celebration proud, you’d better be buying your airline tickets now—if you still can.
Carnival—that exuberant festival that closes out the days before Lent—is best known in the U.S. for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The two-week festival ends with a huge parade on Fat Tuesday (or mardi gras in French), the day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (March 9 this year).
In Catholic countries, just as in New Orleans, the Carnival period starts weeks—in some places nearly a month—before Fat Tuesday. Parties, parades and other celebrations are common. And the closer the time gets to Fat Tuesday, the more exuberant the partying becomes.
If you’re thinking of relocating to a Latin American country—all of which are nominally Catholic—this can be a fun time to visit. Don’t plan on getting any serious business—such as house-hunting—done during this time, especially if you visit a city with a big Carnival celebration. Instead, use it as a chance to see your proposed new home at its most exuberant—and its noisiest.
In Latin America, here are some of the cities with the best-known Carnival celebrations. If you want to visit these cities during February or early March, be sure to pin down accommodation as soon as you can.
Brazil, of course, is home to the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the largest and arguably the most famous Carnival in the world. (The main contender for fame would be Venice, Italy, which has celebrated Carnival since the 13th century.) Rio’s Carnival is known for its nightly parades of the samba schools and its wild parties. But for a genuine Carnival in the streets, many connoisseurs prefer the celebrations in Salvador de Bahía, in northern Brazil. Attending either is a memorable experience.
The port city of Veracruz has one of Mexico’s biggest and best-known Carnivals. Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, is a city of food, music and vibrant ambience. Today a sophisticated metropolis and major port, Veracruz has long been known within Mexico for its seductively easy-going lifestyle. The beach resort of Mazatlán, on the Pacific coast, and Mérida, in the Yucatán Peninsula, are also known for their Carnival celebrations and parades.
In Colombia, the Caribbean coast city of Barranquilla takes top Carnival honors. Celebrated during the four days before Ash Wednesday, Barranquilla claims that its music-filled Carnival is one of the largest in the world.
Many other cities throughout Latin America have smaller Carnival celebrations. As a visitor or potential expat, you may find that you enjoy these smaller, more intimate Carnivals at least as much as the big festivals. These festivals’ smaller scale can make them easy to take part in. You may also find it easier to book accommodation than in cities whose Carnivals are international tourist attractions.
In addition, in Latin America the weather is usually mild during Carnival season—especially compared to the late-winter weather in the U.S. and Canada. Warm weather and a party? Now that’s a combination hard to resist.
This article was republished with permission by International Living.