The Carnival of Montevideo is ready to go
Applauded by thousands of spectators, from this week onwards, the groups competing in the official competition, which lasts 40 days, will pass through the Montevideo Summer Theater.
"We do not take vacations. This is our enjoyment," Carlos Pintos, a director of the Associated Directors of Popular Carnival Shows of Uruguay (DAECPU), told Xinhua.
"Rehearsals start in the middle of winter. What you see now is the work of many months. Only those of us in this family know what it feels like to be a carnival performer," said Pintos.
Criticism of the main events of the past year, parodies, music, dance, and impressive costumes make up the shows in five categories: murgas and parodists (the most popular), comparsas, humorists and magazines.
The competition in the Summer Theatre, which has a capacity of around 6,000 spectators, is replicated every night in each neighborhood on the stages, where the groups perform outside the competition.
With the last rays of sunshine and when the heat of the southern summer subsides, people of different ages buy their tickets for these stages that are also the soul of the local carnival.
"We come to see murgas. The whole family likes it. We've been waiting for months to come to the stage," Leandro Hernández, a 30-year-old man who along with his wife and young son were preparing to enter the Velodrome, a huge stage located in Batlle Park, told Xinhua.
The Carnival was officially inaugurated last Thursday with a seven-block street parade along Avenida 18 de Julio, Montevideo's main avenue.
The winners of the parade were La Venganza de los Utileros (murgas), Zíngaros (parodists), Sarabanda (Comparsas), Cyranos (humorists), La Compañía (magazine).
Gerardo Reyes, the Montevideo City Hall's events manager, reminded Xinhua that the carnival "is the city's biggest popular festival" and "the longest-running event".
The murga and candombe (Afro-Uruguayan music and dance) are the most representative indigenous artistic expressions of the popular festival, which even transcended the borders.
With more than a dozen disguised members and painted faces, the murga acts, sings and dances to the rhythm of bass drum, cymbals and drumming, with a look at reality full of humor, satire and criticism.
Candombe, a musical rhythm generated by drummers, is a tradition of the African slaves who arrived in the country in the 19th century, and was declared an intangible heritage of humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
What moves the carnival-goers is passion, not money.
"I don't know a carnival ensemble director who makes money. On the contrary, I know directors who have lost their homes to the bands" because competition "sometimes leads to spending what you can't," Pintos explained.
In the Summer Theater there is competition for first place in each category, but in the neighborhoods there is no lack of the illusion of a child to one day paint his or her face and go on stage.