Today was the Day of the Whites or Dia de Los Blancos, the culmination of more than a week of festivities on epiphany. Today is the day that three months, thousands of dollars invested in carossas and costumes is put on for show throughout the city. We bought seats (around 50,000 pesos or $25 USD) on Graderia 8, basically a tourist set of bleachers that had bathrooms inside and a beer saleswomen. Seats were saved by bags of chips, cariocas (foam sprayers) and coolers of food. One family rolled in with a case of aguardiente (Colombian liquor) to share with everyone. On another note, our arrivals were at 8am and the offerings of liquor began a reasonable thirty minutes after.
So what do people do when you have three hours from 8 am to wait for a parade to start? You load up on cariocas ($2 USD) to arm the entire family, children and grandmothers included, and as you’re trapped on a set of bleachers you just shoot your neighbors. And you shoot the guy who has to go to the bathroom. And you shoot the family who showed up later than you. It’s trapped madness.
This is technically the tourist stand but also expensive, so these families had unlimited wealth to arm themselves with foam sprayers. People were not above ‘accidentally’ spraying babies. The only person spared was a 90-year-old grandmother. One little three year old boy made the mistake of spraying the front row and was then covered in foam into submission.
The parade started and began with dancers, followed by individual costume submissions (these are like the floats, constructed with carved styrofoam and paper mache) and the carossas or parade floats brought up the rear.
Above are photos of the “loco motor” or one of the floats we saw the crew putting together the day before. There were amazing displays of work and dedication. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in construction in the culmination of one day’s festivities. The parade lasted nearly 4 hours with lots of down time as parades navigated telephone lines (the photo below) and as groups took turns dancing and playing. I was in the bleachers for most of the time but here are the photos below. Note the cumbia group dressed up as the band KISS. Priceless.
In down times people felt the need to start attacking each other with foam again and in addition talcum powder and in some aggressive cases a mixture of both. On another note each float had a theme, ranging from famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez (there was a float named Macondo for him, another to 100 years of solitude), there was a clown float and a “Pacifico float.” They threw out little candies to which adults held out their ponchos like little children. My neighbor alone was so fast I was left with a single cherry hard candy. As the last float came through, people started to disperse and one of our neighbors had her camera stolen sadly.
We tried to head down to Avenida de los Estudiantes to try to see the floats but calle 18 (the route we chose) had descended into a post apocalyptic scene. Gangs roamed the street carrying 15 pound bags of flour and would walk in groups, single members attacking passerby’s and if you retaliated (which of course we did) the rest would come and attack you. I have nearly no photos of this as one “joven” slammed me and my camera in the face with powder. We did win some though . . . though not nearly enough to keep us going past 7pm.
I think my favorite point of the day was when a three year old shot me in the face with foam so I pretended to chase him (just to give him a scare) and every one of his cousins came out and attacked me with powder and foam. Laura, Kristi and Deb ran to the rescue but we were outnumbered 3 to 1 and so we ran away from the 3 year old and his team.