El Congo

The “Danza del Congo” (Dance of the Congo) is one of the most traditional dances/costumes of the carnival. Its origin can be traced back to the war dances of the African Tribes of the Congo. These dances and traditions were first brought to Colombia’s Caribbean Coast with the arrival of African slaves.

Many generations later, after slavery was abolished in Colombia, these dances were still being performed in the black townships of Cartagena. During the Candelaria festivities in Cartagena Joaquin Brachi, an Italian merchant, saw these dances and was inspired. In 1875 he decided to form a similar group to take part in Barranquilla’s carnival. He called it “El Congo Grande” (The Large Congo) because of the large number of people that decided to participate.

el congo
El Congo Grande Image Courtesy of http://www.carnavaldebarranquilla.org

The costume is very bright and colorful. Men wear bright colored pants and a long sleeve shirt with a bedazzled bib and cape. On top of their heads they wear a cylindrical turban of at least 20 inches in height (50 cm) with a tail that falls to their ankles. This turban is decorated with colorful artificial flowers, usually with the colors of the Colombian flag or the flag of Barranquilla. Some also sporting the logo of the local soccer team, El Junior (TU PAPÁ!!).  Their faces are painted white with red circles on the cheeks and they carry a wooden machete and chant: “Que viva el congo!”

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