Carnival in Argentina ? When I heard about it, I thought it might be an Argentine joke to make fun of the Brazilians. When I was told that the carnival is being held in Gualeguaychu, my suspicion deepened. May be it is a joke on native Indians as well.
But I was in for a surprise yesterday night at the Gualeguaychu Carnival . I found it authentic, colourful, joyful and impressive.
It started at 11 pm and went on till 3 pm with three groups parading in the Corsodrome ( like the Sambadrome in Rio) The audience joined the Carnival dancers in singing and dancing from their seats. Champagne, wine and beer kept the spirits high and wild. The floats were big and the feathers were clourful and the fantasy costumes were imaginative. The number of people in each parading group was about 200, and each group paraded for about an hour.
Gualeguaychu is a small town of 100,000 people and is 300 km from Buenos Aires. The city is well organised to hold the carnival and provide accomodation for the tourists who come from all over Argentina besides Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. As in Rio here also one cannot get hotel one-night stay. It comes with a package of minimum 3 nights. Many camp outside the city and there are thermal water resorts. The Carnival is held every saturday from january first week to March first week. They have made it into a tourist industry and money maker. The Corsodrome accomodates 40,000 people and the entry tickets cost from 5 dollars to 100 dollars. They give awards to the best group every year, like in Rio.
One group chose an Asian theme. It included chinese, indonesian and japanese floats and an Indian one too. There was Lord Krishna, in his bluish splendour, mischievously happy in the company of the pretty Argentine blondes dancing around the float. Ganesh and Hanuman were also there, as seen in the fotos below. There was another Indian god too. Not in form but in spirit. It was Brahma. Yes, the famous Brahma beer !
And now comes the inevitable question. How does it compare with the Rio Carnival, which I have seen twice. The difference is a few millimetres. Oops.. yes the dress the Argentine dancers wear is a few millimetres bigger than those worn in Rio !!. Of course, the dress in Rio shold be measured in nano millimetres and in many cases there is nothing to measure. So the Argentine carnival can be described as decent, in contrast to what the puritans call the one in Rio as ...you guessed it. While the Argentine men and women wiggled their bums vigorously, they could not match the incredible movements of the mulattas. The last difference is in music and dance. In Brazil it is Samba. But in Argentina it is a mixture of pop and folk songs imitating the Samba rhythm and beat.
But what is interesting from a cultural perspective is that the Carnival brings out in Argentines joy, gaiety and ecstasy in contrast to the sad mood evoked by Tango which is about broken heart, anguish and melancholy.