A small town of 30 thousand persons becomes the center of happiness in Colombia every two years. It is the Carnaval del Diablo, a name that does not mean satanism or similar things, but happiness, peace and reconciliation. January 2 – 12 2009 is the time for the next version of the Carnival. Although the authorities of the municipality did not answer our request to have the program, we published a kind of scheme of how it would be according with former programs.
The Demon of Joy welcomes the new year in Colombia
Another Carnival of January in Colombia and again in the Axe of Coffee. The Riosucio Town in the State of Caldas, the seat of the Carnival in which the center is the Demon of Joy. We found this article in www.viajeros.com and translated it for our media. The article was written a year ago by Marcel Cabrera but it shows very well one of the most representative carnivals of Colombia, declared also by the State as a cultural patrimony. It is a Carnival with an old history of more than hundred years and it is an excellent model of how hate can be changed by the joy of a feats.
By Marcel Cabrera of www.viajeros.com | Translated by Albeiro Rodas
A short mention of the Carnival of Riosucio, one of the most bright and colorful feasts in the city of Riosucio, Caldas, Colombia, celebrated at the beginning of the year. The Carnival of the Demon is a magnificent feast celebrated in Riosucio, Caldas, in the Colombian Axe of Coffee and it is also one of the most original feasts of the nation.
About its origin there are some versions, but they are agreed in state that it was born at the middle of the 19th century, about 1845.
What we know today as Riosucio-Caldas, was actually two opponent communities (San Lorenzo and Quiebralomo.) Their opposition was so serious than even they had each one their own plaza and their own church until a priest, José Ramón Bueno, tired of that insane enmity, gathered both communities in what is today the “Calle del Comercio” (The Commerce Street), inviting them to end any opposition under the treat that other problem would be punish by the same Devil. To celebrate the union they founded a feast in honor to the Magi Kings on January 6th, the reason why the Carnival takes places during the first week of the first month.
Another version says that the first inhabitants were of African origin and they used to go around the town during the first week of January to scare everybody. To do so, they covered their face with masks and hit the people with cow bladders. This aspect is remembered in the anthem of the Carnival as “vejigazos a más no poder” (hitting too much with bladders). This fact is the origin of the “matachines”, characters who are a part of the Carvanal.
Other last version is even simpler and says that the Carnival is a tradition brought from Spain. According with this only three places in the world render cult to the prince of darkness: a town in Spain (I do not know the name), Oruro in Bolivia and Riosucio in Colombia since more than 157 years ago.
Although the many versions of its origin, the Carnival of Demon is today one of the most fabulous cultural manifestations of Colombia. It is a great river of happiness with no planetary comparison and it is a feast full of colors that starts a day at 12:00 to end seven days after, with the tired bodies of the participants and a face of fulfillment that will remain for two years in order to prepare the next Carnival.
The event starts with what is called the “awaken”. This is the first activity that gathered locals and visitors in Plaza de la Candelaria at 12:00 with unique songs of the Carnival while people jump and run by the main streets of the city involving the static persons and ending the long wait of two years for the feast.
It is in that moment that the initial joy becomes a permanent happiness of seven days when the Riosucians and visitors join around the different and colorful activities.
The first day of the Carnival is dedicated to the children with their parade by the streets in colorful costumes giving the spirit of this popular feast. The customs are representations of the Demon of Joy and the children song promising the remaining of the Carnival for the centuries to come, because the happiness of the Carnival is on their blood.
At the second day there is the “Colonial” Parade. The Riosucians who are settled in other regions of Colombia or abroad met and prepare their own teams (“cuadrillas”): groups organized with appropriate customs to sing and perform by the streets.
The awaken of the Demon
But the most important part takes place in the third night. Suddenly the streets of Riosucio become a human massive invasion in order to be witnesses of his majesty, the Demon, lord of the Carnival. Hence, at 24:00, starts the great parade with a colossal demon, with shining eyes and slow movements to greet the participants who came to see him and enjoy the happiness offered by the Riosucians due to their dedicated preparation.
The feast continues with groups of music in the popular stages of streets and plazas, thousand of persons with customs of demons, fire games and small bullfighter performances.
The fourth day comes the adult parade with the teams of impressive customs prepared during two years with different subjects, songs with funny compositions dedicated to national news of politics, people, the same Carnival and, of course, the demon of joy.
The Church takes parts in the pagan celebration knowing that in this opportunity the demon unites the people and give them happiness for seven days out of the normal life.
In this way it is celebrated the Feats of the Demon. It is not a perverse Devil of chaos and hate, but a good one, joyful and friend of all the Riosucians in order to make the city visited by thousand of persons to know one of the most beautiful feasts of Colombia.
You can arrive to Riosucio from Cali, Medellín, Manizales or Pereira. The climate is good, the food is delicious. You can find a good lunch in U$3, a hotel room night in U$5 and there is the possibility of camping.
This article was published in Spanish by www.viajeros.com on January 23, 2007.