WorldTeach Colombia volunteer Rebecca shares some of the Colombian celebrations that take place throughout the month of November.
When I arrived in Cartagena in August people were already talking about the November festivities. The best thing about the November festivities is that they start in October. If there is one thing people in Colombia (and specifically on the coast) do well, it’s celebrate!
It had taken me since August to actually figure out what we were celebrating in November because most of the time the people here just refer to it as “fiestas novembrinas” or “festivales de noviembre”…basically the November festivities. And then their explanation of what it was included some explanation of “people throwing water,” “firecrackers in the street,” “throwing foam out of the bus windows,” and “queens and beauty pageants.”
After actually experiencing this week of celebrations and craziness here’s my best explanation of what this week entails:
It started on a Tuesday with Cartagena’s Independence Day. That was the first day of celebrations and there is no school.
Then, from Wednesday to the following Monday, the celebrations continue. On Thursday is the most important bando (parade), in which you get to see all the “queens” from Colombia. At the end of the celebrations — I think it was on Sunday– there is a beauty pageant where all the local queens from all the different departments (states) in Colombia are competing to be Miss Colombia. The winner will go to the Miss Universe pageant.
I also must mention that, back in October, my school started celebrating the November festivities by re-creating the beauty pageant. Each class had to choose a capitana and two Fridays in a row they participated in a school-wide beauty pageant. We also celebrated with a dance contest and fruit festival.
During the rest of the November there were many other parades and celebrations throughout different parts of the city. There were also concerts and events and a lot of things happening that I was never exactly quite what was going on, where it was going on, or when it was going on.
Occasionally we stumbled across different events and got to enjoy them!
One thing was for certain; unless you stayed in your home you were going to get spuma-ed. Spuma is a lovely foam substance that comes in a giant can, that EVERYONE purchases and sprays on anyone walking by. I think I spent an entire week covered in foam.
They also weren’t joking when they said people would spray this out the bus window! One day I was standing on the side of the street and got foamed from someone in a bus. People also like to throw water into the bus windows.
Another crazy thing that people have during this week are things called buscapies which translates to “watch your feet.” They are basically little firecrackers that you throw on the ground and they make a big popping sound and then explode and you literally have to watch your feet so you don’t get hit by them.
Overall, this week in Cartagena was quite the culture experience, very fun, and at times slightly overwhelming. If you’re wondering Miss Sucre won the beauty pageant and will be competing as Miss Colombia in the Miss Universe pageant.
-WorldTeach volunteer Rebecca
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