Have you ever been to Curacao? What about Karnival – or Carnival, as we say in the states – in Curacao? Carnival in Curacao is all about my favorite thing…FUN! This unique celebration embodies everything I find so charming about Curacao; friends, family, good times and a spirit of happiness!
Curacao is a bustling little island off the coast of Venezuela, and part of the Dutch “ABC Islands” in the Southern Caribbean. It’s truly one of the most beautiful islands I’ve traveled to, and quite different than what you may expect from the Caribbean! It came as no surprise that Carnival in Curacao was laid back and just as much for me as a visitor as it was for the participants!
I visited Curacao on a complimentary press trip and attended the last day of Carnival, which culminated with the Farewell Parade. It was the perfect introduction to the Carnival celebration in Curacao! Carnival in Curacao is a cultural celebration, but you don’t have to be a native to Curacao (or the Caribbean in general) to appreciate the festivities.
The History of Carnival in Curacao
Like most of the Caribbean islands years ago, Curacao had many plantations, which were worked by slaves. The modern day Carnival in Curacao evolved from the small carnivals the slaves threw while the plantation owners held their celebratory balls. They would dress up in costumes, participate in rituals and tell stories of folklore to keep their ancestry alive.
As the slaves were emancipated, they took these parades to the streets and modern Carnival in Curacao was born!
The Beginning of Carnival in Curacao
There is such a mixture of nationalities in Curacao that their Carnival is unlike any other! Modern day Carnival is a mixture of the traditions carried out by the Dutch colonists, the Asiatic immigrants, Creole middle class, and the immigrants from the Eastern Caribbean islands brought with them their own Carnival style: street parades!
Carnival in Curacao Today
The island’s typical style of music, Tumba, has become the official music styling of Carnival and can be heard in many variations throughout the parade.
Carnival is made up of different teams, and while they are mainly Curacao locals on these teams, anyone can join them! People come from other Caribbean islands, even from from Venezuela and Brazil! Each team chooses a theme and they order costumes based on that theme.
The variations of costumes are pretty crazy, with some being very simple and fun to outrageously extravagant. The team we rooted for was based around Britto, a Miami-based artist. We hung out with them for a while as they got ready for the parade and were just blown away by the attention to detail in their costumes!
You probably recognize the bright, bold colors from art in Miami International Airport, right?
While I loved the Britto-inspired team, this guy in the dragon costume was my favorite!
Look at all of that pink!
Before the parade began, we went to join our team’s booth and had a few drinks and dinner as the street party began. You see, each team sets up booths along the parade route, so that their friends and family has a nice, comfortable place to watch the parade from.
If you aren’t affiliated with a team, you can bring a chair and cooler with snacks and drinks and hang out there too! It really is a big street party, with people having drinks, walking the street to say hello to friends and wish each other’s perspective teams luck.
Once the parade begins, get ready for some fun!
Each team has different parts of their group; they have the headliners which hold some type of banner announcing their team theme, then there are dancers, sometimes broken up into groups based on their age or variations within the theme itself.
This was my favorite headliner, even though I couldn’t figure out what their theme was!
We saw costumes of every type, some based on fantasy, some on popular movies…
I think the headliners were my favorite part of the parade…this one in particular had photos prom previous parades as part of their decorations!
Everyone was having such a great time, and I loved that many of the participants were partying just as much as the people watching the parade!
Most of the teams had a mobile bar that was attached to their group, and they refilled drinks and handed out food along the parade route. It was so fun to watch!
Once our team arrived at our spot on the parade route, we got to see them in action. Everyone was having a grand old time and then we did something that few have the opportunity to do in Carnival…
We hopped up on the parade float!
One thing that really stood out to me about Carnival in Curacao is how orderly and happy the entire night was. There was no fighting, no one got hurt, you didn’t have to worry about anyone bothering you – I felt very safe the entire night and made to feel at home by the people around me.
If you would like to witness Carnival in Curacao for yourself – and you totally should – check out the Curacao Tourist Board website for more information.