When I went to Montevideo in January 2013, one of the things that most surprised me was the great cultural activity that offers the Uruguayan capital from its streets toward the interior of cultural centres, art galleries, theatres, libraries and museums. Among such diversity believe that the Carnival Museum is a site that travelers who are interested in learning more about the popular culture of each place should visit.
Even though Carnival is a festival that is usually held in February, it seems that at any time of the year it is possible to feel rhythms of street musicians and candombes in the streets and clubs of Montevideo since throughout the year different groupings are prepared for the big annual event.
The Uruguayan Carnival is considered to be the longest in the world, with approximately 35 days; it begins in mid-January until the end of February and is characterized by combining African traditions with European. The word that called the event comes from the latin “carnevale”, where “flesh” means clearly meat, and “worth” to say goodbye. A valid interpretation would be: “farewell to meat”, or “feast of flesh”, now that the event is three days before Lent and has to do with the carnal needs before entering a period of religious restrictions. However, I think that the joy of Carnival has obscured the severe part of the ritual and the party has no limits, so defines it one of the texts in the Museum: the Carnival is a “party of freedom of movement of the scandal and the noise”.
Another typical feature of the Uruguayan Carnival are the traditional platforms, scenarios where act all groups. I liked go to see trials of a murga and a couple of strings of drums that interpret various rhythms linked to candomble. In one of the latter even had the privilege of seeing Black Rada – renowned musician Uruguayan – playing his drum as one of the people, at the same time he shared a red wine in carton box.
But recently I could understand many of these cultural manifestations and its importance by visiting the Carnival Museum in in Montevideo. Permanent samples include one called “History of the Carnival in Uruguay” displaying photos and clothes of the last forty years. Also is shows it “The old platforms” which consists of six models that recreate platforms of 1935 and 1936. My favorite has been the exhibition “Candombe” with a detailed account of its history, old drums and locker rooms of great beauty that represent typical character as the old MOM. When I went out there just was, among the temporary exhibitions, “A century tanning murga”, a tribute to the murga“Curtidores de Hongos” that in 2012 it held its one hundred years of life, being the oldest set that is still in activity.
Among the more interesting things that I discover in this museum are the knobs “florida water” which they used to launch the public until the ‘ 40s, and that the origin of the candombe is linked with an African feast that commemorates the coronation of the Kings of Congo every January 6, which is generally known as “El Día de Reyes”.
Entre las cosas más interesantes que pude descubrir en este museo están los pomos de “agua florida” que se acostumbraba lanzar entre el público hasta los años ’40, y que el origen del candombe se vincula con una fiesta africana que conmemora la coronación de los Reyes del Congo cada 6 de enero, la que generalmente se conoce como “El día de Reyes” (The day of Kings).
Hints of the Carnival Museum
- The Carnival Museum is located in old town, opposite tothe port of Montevideo, Rambla on August 25, 1825 No. 218, corner Maciel. See map here.
- The ticket is not free but its price is affordable (65 Uruguayan).
- Open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm.
- The museum will be closed on the following days: 1st and 6th of January, 1st of May, 24, 25 and 31 of December.
- Contact: Tel: (598) 2 915 0807. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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