Category Archives: Festivals

Carnaval In Uruguay

SteveAnthonyby Steve Anthony, resident and student of all things Montevideo, who arrived in June of 2014 and plans to stay quite a while.  He writes of the monuments everywhere in Montevideo


“Murga doesn’t represent the masses, they are the masses.” Yamando Cardazo, Director Agarrente, Catalina


I want to learn Spanish.   I’m living in a Spanish-speaking country, obviously.  But at this time, the time of Carnaval, I am inspired to learn Spanish so that next year when I attend Carnaval, I will understand the finer points of language use employed by the worker artists of Montevideo.

Not every participant is from Montevideo proper, but the majority are.  There are several ways a performance artist might participate.  There are murgas, parodistas, revistas, comparsas, who compete for prize money.  I have much to learn and the process is quite enjoyable, a labor of love.

Probably like a lot of people, when I heard about Carnaval, I thought “Party” “Revelry”, some noisy drunks and nearly naked women.

Well, I now see carnaval as an alternate Universe. Carnaval is 2 parts performance, 6 parts training and working as a group, 2 parts family support and love (editor’s note: that’s 10 parts)

Love could be a jumping off point so we’ll touch on that.  I want to focus on my favorite, the murgas.  To be a murga, you need a strong and trained voice, a mime or dancer’s sense of movement, a sense of comedy, a high level of presentation.  Acting most murgas are men, murga13 singers, 1 director and a symbol – a snare drum and a large base drum in the Candombe style.  The director often has a guitar that is used sparingly.  A lot of the presentations are acapella singing. They provide social communication in the songs.  A typical presentation may poke fun at the government, the legalization of mariuana, dogs and their owners, or the prisoners in Guantanamo.

They sing harmonies that pierce the night air as one powerful voice fills the space in us.

I Mentioned love as being an important element in all this the actors singers  and dancers must love it they spend a lot of their spare time planning guiding building costumes and sets training voice and body

During 8 to 10 months of preparation for roughly one month of performance love is the main element ultimately the exchange between audience and performers reach a crescendo toward the end of the time limit which is imposed as part of the competition

As the singers are preparing to leave the crowd is on its feet performers and audiences are overcome with what I can only describe as love inspiration in appreciation for each other and appreciation for each other the audience is their loved ones family and friends the Mergus exit still singing and dancing into the crowd kisses hugs tears of joy and relief that come from just doing it make it make up smudged from face to face until at last the group handles in tight circles singing a last celebratory song of the elaborate heard dresses as the elaborate head dresses I thrown into the air if you can resist all this and not be swept up in pure joy of life you need a pulse check.

Festival of the Sea

impressions of a sea festival, by Steve AnthonySteveAnthony
goddessLemanja–the goddess of water, the sea, a festival celebrated every year in Uruguay, of African origin.   A man asked the goddess for love and drowned while reaching to caress her.  You can ask her for anything except love. People dress in white, some dance into a trance, people send out boats laden with offerings of fruits, sweets, candles, and small statues. The beach is full of small grottos carved out in the sand,  with blue offeringsatpocitoscandles burning, blue flowers and white flowers, the color theme repeated in the styrofoam boats and pictures  of Lemanja.
People are standing in lines to be blessed and or purified with branchs dipped in the water, blessing and purifying themselves (but leaving the remains of the ceremonies to clutter up the river). Religion is interesting.  Many many people like me just watching, looking, taking pictures, many people, maybe five thousand, just observing perhaps 2000 in the river purifying and backing out as is the custom.
The little boats, many with burning candles, filling the river as the sun sets.  Picturesque and strange, blue, white, the dying burning sun on the river creating a sound of wind chimes inside me, all in all a transporting from our day to day existence  to a place of mystery.