December 3 was established as the international day of Uruguayan Candombe, with a parade featuring Las Llamadas showing off along the mythical 18 de Julio Avenue of Montevideo. Thus, this ancestral way of gathering used by the African immigrants to find one another during the Carnival has become legitimate. An identification and customary stamp that has made "the call and reply" of a small drum to become a popular celebration that this year 2013, just like decades ago, will be held in February in the neighborhoods Sur and Palermo, in Montevideo.
Las Llamadas (the calls) derive from the call made by the Negroes when they began to gather, whether to celebrate or to deal with certain social issues. Each group used to have a couple of drums and get out into the streets playing the candombe in order to get the big group together to celebrate Carnival.
The Negroes had been part of the Montevideo Carnival for a very long time, though they generally could not officially participate in the celebrations. Therefore, they would celebrate among themselves, singing and dancing along the very same streets where most of them lived.
Today, nobody speaks about Negroes and white men any more. Everybody speaks about murguistas, comparsistas and carnavaleros -basically carnival people-, and many of them repeat a true tribute to their ancestors every year in the neighborhoods called Sur and Palermo. Two days a year, when the calendar announces February has just began, las Llamadas are celebrated.
These celebrations began in 1956 and ever since they have become a classical in the City of Montevideo. They also began to be celebrated in other Uruguayan towns with carnival blood. They consist in a parade in which men, women and children of all ages take part. They tour around thousands of meters in the company of a lively audience that dances to the rhythm of <i>candombe</i> and its drums along with the protagonists.
The comparsas are led by the estandartes (banners) representative of each group, an emblem that distinguishes them from the rest. Then the flags arrive, followed by a set of fantasy devices made up by moons, stars and lights carried by masked young people. These icons refer to the Islam, the religion most of the African slaves practiced before they were brought to the Río de la Plata.
Then, the gramillero appears. It is the eldest man in the comparsa and he generally wears a thick white beard that evidences his age. However, his devilish dance shows the audience an overwhelming youth accompanied by his dancing partner, the Mamá Vieja (Old Mamma) or Abuela (Grandma), a black old woman who moves her hips as if she was just a teenager.
Behind them, there comes the Escobero (broom man), who is in charge of sweeping all the negative waves and the bad weeds the street may be covered with. He leads the group of dancers and the drummers line-up, formed by the musicians of each group who play their rhythm and set the steps and movements for all the members of the comparsa.
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