Blacks and Whites’ Carnival

The Blacks and Whites’ Carnival s the biggest celebration in the south of Colombia. It is celebrated each year from January 2nd until the 7th. Every single year, turist from Colombia and around the world visit Pasto so they can soak up this magical celebration.

Brenda Cardona © Solkes


About the Carnival

Every year those who live the Carnival of Negros and Blancos witness a collective and generous celebration that celebrates aesthetics and fun in a centennial city.

Karen Cardona © Solkes

The Carnival is home for those who enjoy colors, make up and white powder, the aesthetics of the surrealist floats, the playful comparsas, the vernacular costumes and the fantastic choreographic collectives with their rhythms of this party.

In general, Pasto, capital of the department of Nariño, is thought of as a rather quiet capital in the Andean region.

But, at the beginning of each year, thousands of tourists arrive and are surprised by a capital that transforms and goes from being a quiet city to a city that is seduced by creativity.

As the city of Pasto is centennial, its carnival also dates from colonial times. These celebrations, with the fusion and influence of the Spanish culture are what make up what would be the Carnival of Pasto.


The history

In the early nineteenth century, colonial authorities banned these parties to avoid the indigenous uprisings. In 1834 the celebrations of Indians with their churumbeles, the mestizos with masquerades and mainly neighbors’ chatter reappear.

But in this occasion, all these parties were framed in the religious calendar. They did so with the festivities of the Virgen de las Mercedes (September 24) and the Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8).

Something new every day

When everything started, the celebration lasted only two days. In the 1920s it extended to three full days and today the celebration lasts five days.

Every day there is a protagonist. On January 2, the main characters are the children who learn about the importance of this carnival from an early age. They demonstrate it with their creative capacity in the parade of the ‘Carnavalito’.

On January 3rd, the ‘Canto a la Tierra’ is performed. That day 11 choreographic collectives, integrated on average by 250 people, share the Andean strength in their multicolored costumes, their dances and their music.

Brenda Cardona © Solkes

The 4th is when the ‘Castañeda Family’ and the ludic authority of the city, Pericles Carnaval, welcome their own and visitors. On the 5th, the game of the negritos takes place. It remind us of the Afro presence in this mestizo carnival and the 6th when the colors and the majesty of the parade magno give an end to the celebration.

During colonial times, on January 5th drum beat was heard in the streets of San Juan de Pasto. It was the day when black slaves obtained permission from their masters to celebrate, for the only time of the year, their freedom. Then they threw themselves into the roads and remembered their ancestors through music, dance and food, and to express their yearning for equality they smudged, with charcoal, the whites who were in their path.

That celebration, which awakened the whole city, was named as the ‘feast of the negritos’, and it was such a fuss that on many occasions whites allowed themselves to be contagious, and leaving aside their status they participated.

The world, through Unesco, recognized the qualities of the carnival, when in September 2009 it was included in the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Brenda Cardona © Solkes

To start the year with a new skin is the meaning that the pastusos historically have given to these five days of January. Thus, the Black and White Carnival invites all its attendees to start the year with a clean and renewed spirit, after a real collective catharsis.

A fusion

The black and White Carnival has its origin in the fusion of multiple cultures and expressions, corresponding to the Andes, the Amazon and the Pacific culture.

This fact characterizes and distinguishes it among other similar expressions, starting with the date in which it is made. It has a distinctly indigenous origin, since it coincides with the celebration of the Moon (Quilla). It is reminiscent of the rituals performed by the grasses and quillasingas, agrarian cultures that, in time of harvest, honored with dances to the moon, and in other rituals they prayed to the sun, to protect their crops.

Brenda Cardona © Solkes
Karen Cardona © Solkes

The fantasy of its majestic floats, the sticky music of the murgas, the coloring of its comparsas and the costumes and the charm of the dance offered by the choreographic collectives.

It is the party of the fine mixture of art, folklore and the game that unites races, peoples and customs in a city that has 500 thousand inhabitants for four days and has more than 1 million people with tourists arriving from Cali, Bogotá, Medellín and even the neighboring country of Ecuador.

The skirts of the Galeras volcano are the cradle of great artists and craftsmen. All bring to the carnival their inspiration, creativity and ingenuity to make it one of the best in Colombia and perhaps on the continent.


What is means

This is one of the most loved celebration in Colombia.

Magic that is reflected in people of all ages and social strata. They wear tiny figures on their faces and dressed in multicolored attire, dance through the streets to revive the indigenous spirit under the son sureño and the airs of Andean folklore.

The passion, love and sacrifice for the Carnival of Blacks and Whites were once again framed in a hundred reasons for the happy and colorful farewell of January 6, at the rhythm of the sonsureño and in the midst of white powder and serpentines.

Karen Cardona © Solkes

The Carnival became, from then on, a celebration of communion in which freedom, play, art, creativity, joy and fraternal love of the people of Nariño are expressed.

It reflects the need to recreate the historical ritual of resisting tedium, sublimate artistic work and dream of another time and space.

The carnival is inclusive, accommodates all people, does not need to emulate or compete, but simply complement and contribute from the affection, music, colors and imagination in the different modalities and characters of the parties. It promotes the fusion with the others, and in it the street finds its maximum expression. The days of carnival, the city is transformed and mythical beings emanate in the middle of the ritual that regenerates the meaning of existence.

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