Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

by Stephanie Walsh on February 11, 2013 · 38 comments

in Colombia, South America, Travels

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Attending the craziness of the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (Blacks and Whites’ Carnival) in Pasto, Colombia has been one of the best experiences I’ve had here. I’m going to make a completely uninformed statement and say that this annual Colombian carnival would blow the Tomato Throwing Festival (La Tomatina) in Spain, Holi Festival in India and even the infamous Rio Carnival in Brazil, completely out of the water…if only the world knew about it! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating…but it is THAT GOOD!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

The colour, the fun and the smiles!

To describe the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos is difficult. The incredibly colorful parades, the non-stop celebrations and the extent of the intoxicating foolishness that grips the town without fail, every January, was hard to imagine, despite Andres’ multiple attempts. It was only when I arrived in Pasto and experienced it for myself that I really understood what he was talking about. So, I’m sure that I won’t be able to do this carnival justice through my words, pictures or video (coming soon!)…so I’ll try with a combination of the three!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Nearly the whole town participates in the grand parade(Defilo Magno) on the 6th and they LOVE IT!

The carnival is utter pandemonium; an explosion of colour and a ruckus of sounds, amid a never-ending stream of festival music, 8am to 3am (aguardiente) drinking, dancing, and of course, the ridiculously fun street wars of foam, paint and powder. Overlooked by the majestic and active Galeras Volcano (Volcán Galeras) and surrounded by one of the most stunning mountainous landscapes I have ever seen, it is the perfect place to celebrate one of the oldest festivals in South America.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

The costumes are beautiful works of art and represent the Andean culture.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

One of the winning costumes from the previous days' smaller parades, whose prize was to participate in the grand parade.

The locals literally call it ‘playing’ and it’s not surprising, as for 6 days of the year, the small city of Pasto turns into a giant playground. Kids, teenagers, adults and grandparents all join in the fun and embrace their inner ‘child’, ambushing and covering strangers in mountains of foam and powder as they try to defend themselves. No one is safe. No one is a stranger. Anyone that steps outside their door is automatically game for attack.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

The street wars are insane!! No one is safe! :)

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Girl gets attacked with foam and powder...the perfect combination for destruction!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Aaaand...again!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Soon everybody looks like this...and if you don't...they'll get you!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

During the carnival week, the entire city is covered in white powder, and it floats through the air as people continue to 'play'.

Not only is the carnival amazingly fun and beautiful, but the local ‘Pastuso’ people are too. With the best (and funniest) Colombian accent I have ever heard, it is hard not to love these extremely welcoming and hospitable people. Pastusos are so proud of their carnival and they love to see foreign people coming to enjoy the festivities. They will be the first to offer you a shot of aguardiente…even if it is 8am and you are sleepily waiting for the parades to start; everything they do is with a smile.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

New friends from Pasto

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Ponchos are the preferred method of protecting your clothes...it doesn't work very well!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Great vibes!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Some British guys enjoying the madness!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Loving the hats!

The carnival has been named by UNESCO, as a one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity….oooh, fancy! This has been the second time I have attended such a renowned cultural event in Colombia.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Amazing lion mask!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

And amazing face paint!

The Carnival celebrates the different cultures that have existed in Pasto since the Spanish colonization of the area. The Blacks and Whites’ Carnival celebrates a time when the African slaves were set free for the day and they celebrated by dancing in the streets. The story goes, that there was a slave rebellion in a town called Remedios, in Antioquia. News of the rebellion made its way to the town of Popayán and the black slaves of the town demanded a day off. The King of Spain agreed to January 5th as the day of freedom for the slaves, and celebrations erupted in the street, when the word came back to Popayán. They celebrated by dancing to African music and painting the walls of ‘The White City’ with black coal. The festivities were brought to Pasto in 1854 and the ethnic diversity of its people has been celebrated ever since. That is why, on the Blacks’ day, everyone paints their face black with paint, while on the Whites’ day, everyone covers their face with white powder.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

Beautiful outfits and costumes celebrate the Andean cultures.

The carnival takes place every January from the 2nd to the 7th, although the town unofficially starts celebrating well before Christmas time. Each day has a different parade, or theme, such as the Carnavalito (Children’s Carnival) on the 3rd of January, the Arrival of the Castañeda Family on the 4th of January, the Blacks Day (January 5th), the Whites’ Day and the spectacular grand parade (Desfile Magno) on Januray 6th. January 7th (Cuy’s Day) is spent celebrating the popular local cuisine of Cuy…guinea pig.

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, Colombia

The famous 'Cuy' (guinea pig) of Pasto, which is also celebrated during the carnival.

While I could go on talking about the madness of the carnival, the spectacular craftsmanship of the floats and the heartwarming hospitality of the Pastusos, I will let the (MANY) pictures do the rest of the talking…Enjoy!

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos de Pasto, ColombiaBlacks and Whites' Carnival, Pasto, Colombia
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PHEW! That was my most photo intensive post yet…but I couldn’t resist! Thanks for staying with me…if you did!

If you’re somehow still interested in seeing even MORE photos…check out our Flickr page and be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed so you never miss a post! :)

 

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda February 11, 2013 at 11:39 am

Wow, it’s SO COLORFUL! Looks like an amazing event to attend – thanks for putting it on my radar!
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2 Stephanie Walsh February 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Thanks Amanda! Glad to draw attention to this carnival…it has been one of the highlights of Colombia for me so far! :)

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3 Cassandra February 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Wow, this is so vibrant! How did you know which way to turn? With so many characters, I can see how you might have a hard time choosing only a handful for the blog!
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4 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Ha, I know! I had a harder time trying to protect my camera from all the foam and powder…I learned quickly to wrap it completely in cling-film. I actually only took it out a few times because I was so afraid of it getting damaged, so I can’t imagine how many photos I’d have if it was out all the time! :)

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5 Bret @ Green Global Travel February 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Great photos, Stephanie! I’ve never been to Mardi Gras or Carnival, but this looks like a blast. I just love Colombian culture. Need to get back there someday…
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6 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Bret! It was amazing indeed, and my first big carnival! The rest have a lot to live up to now! :)

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7 Micki February 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Oh, wow, what a beautiful collection of photos. This looks like so much fun. I thought New Orleans was a blast, but this would definitely put it to shame.
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8 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Micki! Haha, well I think we’ll just have to attend a whole lot of carnivals to see which rates the highest so! :P

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9 The Guy February 12, 2013 at 11:37 am

That looks like a lot of fun. So much by way of bright colours too it looks amazing. Although if I lived there I might get sick of a week of being covered in foam and paint.
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10 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

The majority of the town seem to take it in good spirits…and they have kind of resigned to the fact that they have no other choice! haha I know what you mean though…we took a day off one day because we just couldn’t handle another day of being covered in foam, paint and powder! :P

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11 Larissa Milne February 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Wow! Looks colorful, beautiful, messy. . . and FUN :)
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12 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Hehe, precisely Larissa!

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13 Bethaney - Flashpacker Family February 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

That looks like a fantastic amount of fun!!!!! So messy and colourful.
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14 Stephanie Walsh February 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm

It was amazing!! :)

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15 Cole @ FourJandals.com February 13, 2013 at 3:34 am

Looks like madness! But definitely looks like fun.
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16 Stephanie Walsh February 14, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hehe, madness is the word! Thanks for commenting Cole! :)

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17 Val-This Way To Paradise February 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Wow! This even makes the Burning Man festival pale by comparison!! Gorgeous photos…http://www.thiswaytoparadise.com

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18 Stephanie Walsh February 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

Really? Wow! I have always dreamed of going to Burning Man!!

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19 Val-This Way To Paradise February 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Well, you still should!! It’s pretty fantastic…The first round of tickets sold out yesterday in a matter of hours….
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20 Stephanie Walsh February 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Oh, I didn’t know they went on sale so early! Not this year, but I will definitely make it there someday! :)

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21 Cat of Sunshine and Siestas February 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

This is going on my MUST list for when we get to South America! I’ve always loved local fairs, but have steered clear of Carnivals because I’m the groggy one who’s angry at all of the broken glass on the ground and that people aren’t keeping their body fluids to themselves. Great pictures, Steph!!
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22 Stephanie Walsh February 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Haha, well I do know what you mean, but this one was surprisingly well-mannered, despite the craziness! Glad I was able to help add an item to your bucket list! :D

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23 Linda @EcoTraveller February 18, 2013 at 5:34 am

Wow! That is one colourful photo essay. Looks an amazing experience.

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24 Stephanie Walsh February 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hehe, thanks! I couldn’t help putting up all the photos, they look even more colourful when bunched together like this anyway!

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25 Juan Pablo February 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thank you for this wonderful post!
I am from Pasto and you make justice for my beautiful and unknown town!
If you want to come back next year you know we will be happy to have you here :)

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26 Stephanie Walsh February 19, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Hi Juan, thank you very much! Now everyone can see the hospitality of the Pastuso people with your comment too! :D
I really loved your city and the surrounding countryside is some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in Colombia! :)
Thanks for stopping by on the blog!

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27 Koren @ City Gal February 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I left Colombia right before this festival and missed it, and I was so disappointed. It looks like SO much fun and I love all the colors!
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28 Stephanie Walsh February 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Aww that’s a pity that you missed it! There’s always next year! :)

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29 Marysia @ My Travel Affairs February 28, 2013 at 6:25 am

Wow! What a great event! I have already noted in my to do list ha ha ha :)
Amazing pictures!
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30 Stephanie Walsh April 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

Thanks Marysia! You’ll definitely have to go there some time! :)

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31 Izy Berry March 30, 2013 at 2:02 am

Now that’s a festival! It is very colorful and everyone looks like they are really having a good time! I wanna go there too!
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32 Stephanie Walsh April 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

Oh it was amazing! You should definitely put it on your bucket list! I really want to experience the Barranquilla festival in the north of Colombia next! :)

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33 flip April 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Wow! Looks like a fun festival and very colorful too!
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34 gina bermejo December 7, 2013 at 3:55 am

Im going in 2014 to the Barranquilla carneval wondering if I should wait til I get there to get a costume or should I bring one with me? ANY thoughts?? Also we are staying in Barranquilla at my aunts house is there any store or places you can tell me where to go to get costumes for this event????

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