History of Montevideo

Various kinds of festivities are held at different places during Carnival, but they all share the same aim: the people give free rein to their popular ways of expression for a certain period. Thus, a space for individual and collective freedom is created and manifested in the most public places of each town: their streets.

During the colonial period in Uruguay, the negro slaves used to dress up with their masters’ clothes during the Carnival. They used to borrow these costumes -making sure that their masters would not notice it- and wear them inside out, showing the shiny colors of plain silk. Afterwards, always at night, with drums, lanterns and candles, they would head for the city walls, where they used to sing and dance until dawn.

At these marginal neighborhoods, called Sur and Palermo in Montevideo, the slaves would play their drums to make an “ancestor call” and thus manage to join everyone together. The “lubolos” were also present. They were white men who would wear make up in order to take part in these festivities which have become a must ever since they were first organized.

Nowadays, the so-called Carnival Calls represent a festival held on the same stages used years and years ago (the Southern neighborhoods) and they are translated into a multi ethnic celebration in which all the drums and their sound remain as the great stars of the show. Candombe takes hold of the night and the various associations join a parade to the end of a long street under the admiration of thousands of tourists from all round the world, even from the highest layers of society in Montevideo. A marvelous show no one should miss.