Carnival in Oruro was full of color, music, foam (I’ll explain later), and fun. We arrived on Thursday before the big Carnival Days (these are Saturday and Sunday). We roamed the parade route and wandered on multiple small groups performing. The mood was energetic and palpable. Oruro Carnival is known for its water balloons. This has evolved somewhere along the lines to include spray foam as well. We were told by a local that the water balloons were banned this year in Oruro due to unknown reasons. FOAM was the word of the day. Everywhere you went; there were (mostly) young locals armed with a can or two of this wet, wicked substance.
Armed with our rain coats to ward off the wet and cold; Teresa and I wandered the streets. On Saturday; after being foamed by the locals multiple times, we decided to fight back. I have to admit…it was pretty fun.
Saturday and Sunday’s Parade’s were a bit of a disappointment. The costumes were amazingly bright and colorful. The energy, however was not there. I think that the biggest part of our disappointment was due to when we attended the parades (morning) and where we were sitting. We were near the beginning of the parade route and with a group of mostly families.
There were a few bursts of excitement; depending on what band/group was passing through. I think another part of the disappointment was that on Thursday; there were many more traditional looking costumes. This is more like what Teresa and I had assumed the Saturday and Sunday parades would be like.
I was able to get a few great photo’s of the performers. The one above is one of my favorites. This group was full of energy and I caught them all with their feet in the air.
The history of the Carnival and the meanings of each of the different costumes could have led to a greater understanding of the performances. Just prior to leaving on Sunday; we had a conversation with a young man from Canada that now lives in Oruro and performs with one of the bands. He explained to us (in English) the significance of some of the costumes. Unfortunately, trying to piece this information together with what we had previously seen was impossible.
If I were to recommend anyone go to Oruro for Carnival, there are two things that I would recommend. First: Arrive on Wednesday or Thursday and take in the pre-Carnival atmosphere. Second: Find a guide or someone to be-friend that understands the history and can explain to you along the way.
The picture below shows Teresa at her finest. She had an all out FOAM FIGHT with one of the locals. I think she lost the fight but she swears that the other girl gave up and she was still ready for a fight….a foam fight; that is.
As I was sitting in the stands; watching the parade roll by; I had to reflect a little. Of all of the parades that I have ever been too; Mardi Gras in New Orleans, LA still continues to be my all time favorite. I think that I’m ruined for any other to ever come close to what I have experienced in NOLA. No other parade has yet to come close to the energy and excitement that I’ve experienced in New Orleans.
Another thought that creeps in is that I have never had to worry about theft while attending one of New Orleans’ Parades. Unfortunately, I found out one of the dangers of the FOAM during our Carnival Days in Oruro. There is a select few at Oruro Carnival that will catch you by surprise with foam in the eyes; blocking your way forward or back as they attempt to pick your pockets. As much as I hate to admit it; I was caught twice in this attempt. It was actually quite frightening due to the perpetrator placing himself right in front of me and blocking any exit. Add this to the fact that I was blinded by the foam in my eye and I was quickly debilitated. On both instances; Teresa was in a position that made it appear to her, that I was simply caught in a harmless foam fight.
After the first attempt (which I too thought I had gotten caught in a ‘harmless foam fight’); a kind local lady was very concerned. She asked us in perfect english “Do you have all of your things?” and “Did they take anything?”. Fortunately, after the lesson in La Paz with my bag being slashed; I didn’t have anything reachable for wannabe pick-pockets and they walked away empty-handed. Score one more for saving the Toilet Paper!!