What does it mean to be Queen of Carnaval?
Interview with the Queen of Carnaval de Barranquilla
Carnaval is the biggest party ever. You may be most familiar with Rio De Janeiro, Brazil parades or Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Lesser-known Barranquilla, Colombia is the second largest after Rio. The centerpiece of the Carnaval is the Queen “La Reina” Gringa Chef had the opportunity to sit down with the former queen from 2008 Angie De La Cruz to find out more.
Gringa Chef’s interview with the Reina de Barranquilla
How do you become Queen of Carnaval?
You need to present a video of yourself showing off your verbal expression skills, and your artistic and dancing capabilities Finally, you need to explain why you want to be queen for that year. A selection committee led by the Major of the city and made up of folk group leaders and other city leaders do the deciding
What types of dancing are we talking about?
Many types of the traditional dances including Cumbia, Garabato, Mapablé, Fandango, Son de Negro, among others. Colombia is a diverse mix of blending Spanish, African and native Indian people. The Carnaval groups are made up of different ethnic backgrounds going back hundreds of year. The leaders of the groups keep the traditional dances in the family. The leadership rolls are passed down through direct bloodline. Children are taught from birth (practically) to dance the routines of their ancestors… Even the way you hold your skirt has to be perfect.
African music a lot of drums and percussion
Native Indian- the wooden flute “gaita nativa”
Spanish –gave inspiration to many costumes like the Cumbia costume and many other Carnival rhythms
Do you know all of the dances?
Yes, It’s the duty of the queen to travel to the various neighborhoods in Barranquilla and visit the folk groups. Each has its own dance and as the Carnaval queen you have to know them all. I started learning the dances when I was 5, and really picked up my training a year ahead of when I applied.
Everyone likes a good party, dancing and parade but what does it all mean? and where did it get started?
Our carnival originated from the Carnival that came to America from Spain. Hence comes its spirit of renewal and change similar to the one that animated these holidays in Europe. It has close antecedents in the celebration of slaves that was carried out in Cartagena de Indias in time of the Colonies.
Due to the diversity of the port town of Barranquilla the different parts of the city developed their own Carnaval groups. A competition for best group is the ultimate goal. The costumes themselves can take a whole year to make and are constantly improving. The winning troop get the coveted “Congo de Oro” prize and bragging rights as the best group.
What is a day in the life of the Queen of Carnaval like?
My responsibilities started in August, over 6 months before the actual Carnaval. I had to drop two of my classes in college to be in Barranquilla for four/five day weekends of being the Queen. My day looked like this:
7-10AM Practice shows (Bando and Coronacion)
10AM get dressed in traditional dress for the day
Continue to practice till 12.
Travel in a van with my team dancing for events, interviews with the press from around the world. Visiting the different neighborhood in Barranquilla where the groups live.
Dinner and continued events into the evenings.
Get up do it again.
What does being Queen mean to you?
I started out just wanting to dance but becoming queen gave me so much more appreciation for Colombia and its people. I was the ambassador or mascot for the Carnaval de Barranquilla. I traveled all over Colombia promoting the Carnaval with the Governor of Atlántico and Mayor of Barranquilla. We even with to Berlin to represent Colombia at the World tourism convention. In 2008 the year I was queen we celebrated 100 years relationship with Japan, I traveled to Tokyo to represent Colombia.
Did you have an Entourage?
Pretty much, between my security, drivers, speechwriter and assistant. I also had a costume designer, makeup artist, and dance coach, plus all my friends that wanted invites to the parties.
So how famous are you? Do you get free food at restaurants?
Well while I was queen I didn’t even have time to eat out. I guess I am, I traveled so much with government, was invited to all the parties. Everyone knew who I was La Reina. I still get recognized, this year is 25 years celebration all the past reinas (queens) are returning Carnaval to dance in the dress from that year and have a reunion. I’m friends with many of them, but I’m expecting my first baby so the doctor does not think it’s a good Idea I go. Angie has 8000 followers on Instagram and climbing you can follow her @angiedelacruzyepes
That’s amazing news! If you have a daughter would you want her to Queen of Carnaval too?
Absolutely yes, it was an unforgettable experience and I would want that for my daughter too.
What advice would you give someone going to Carnaval de Barranquilla for the first time?
Go to every event even if you are tired go and don’t miss a thing. Arrive Thursday and stay till Tuesday if you can. Walk with the parade if you can you get to see so much more. Saturday all of the groups are in the parade it the biggest day. Sunday is great too all the traditional groups present.
Gringa Chef hopes that interview with a Queen enlighten you about Colombian Carnaval. To learn more culture and food follow Gringa Chef on instagram, facebook, pinterest, and twitter.