Carnaval in Esmeraldas

2 minute read

Last week, Ecuador celebrated Carnaval. Since Monday and Tuesday were national holidays, on Friday night after work, some friends and I hopped on the 13-hour bus ride to the northern coastal city of Esmeraldas for a four-day weekend where a friend of a friend graciously offered us her apartment. When we finally got to the city, we dropped off our backpacks and headed directly to the beach as we waited for the rest of our friends to arrive. After playing in the waves for a few hours we headed back to the city center where we ran into a parade where various organizations and dance troupes showed off their costumes and steps.

We then took a well deserved nap before taking a taxi to another neighborhood where a friend of a friend was having a birthday party. Besides experiencing usual fanfare of Ecuadorian parties, including extremely loud music and lots of salsa dancing, I also learned what my Ecuadorian friends already knew to be “playing Carnaval,” which meant dousing everything and everyone in sight with water and spraying some sort of white foam all over the place.

The next day, we took a taxi (since the lines for the bus were over an hour long) to the nearby beach of Same where we once again enjoyed the waves, ocean breeze and Esmeraldan fish and seafood specialties.

That night we made our way to Las Palmas, where a Marimba Festival was underway. The different groups all had highly elaborate costumes and their dances were as technically impressive as they were inventive. Not to mention, the music was great, much of which centered, as the festival’s name would imply, around the marimba. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures from the night’s festivities due to the aforementioned collective penchant for throwing water all over the place.

The next day was more of the same, which is definitely not a complaint. We went to the more touristy beach of Tonsupa during the day, then headed back to Las Palmas for another night of the Marimba Festival, but not before “playing Carnaval” with our host’s neighbors for a few hours and getting so drenched in water that we actually managed to feel cold in a city known for its heat and humidity. The next day we packed our things, said our goodbyes and dashed down the steps from our friend’s house to avoid getting soaked by her neighbors for whom the party had started once again. All in all, the trip to Esmeraldas was an incredibly fun way to spend this long weekend and a great way to see how Ecuadorians, and more specifically Esmeraldans, celebrate Carnaval.

Jon G. By

Jon volunteered in Quito, Ecuador with the help of a Christianson Fellowship, from the InterExchange Foundation.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation