Carnival in Cochabamba, Bolivia: a Riot of Colour, Movement and Sound

Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia. Cochabamba is in the Andes but located in a valley so it’s altitude is only 2,500 metres. The city is not on the main tourist trail although it does have a Jesus statue larger than Rio de Janeiro’s. I did not come to Cochabamba for the statue but for the 2016 Carnival festival, as Cochabamba has Bolivia’s second best Carnival, after Oruro’s.

Carnival centred on a parade that went around the city’s centre. Along the route temporary stands were built just for this day, Saturday the 13th of February. I sat in a stand next to a television station’s event broadcast facility. Seats were expensive in Bolivian terms and many locals peered through the stands to glimpse the festivities. It was a hot and sunny day and the parade went for almost 12 hours, making the performers in their often heavy costumes sweat.

The parade featured dancing troupes interspersed by big bands. Some of the groups had practised all year in preparation for the day while others were not so polished. All participants were having fun, despite the heat.

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

A kid spraying foam at an already drenched victim. Note the swimming goggles to protect his eyes

Spraying foam is only legal in Bolivia during Carnival time and kids (and some adults) had a great time spraying others and deploying water balloons and other weapons. I managed to avoid serious attack.

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Outrageous costumes featured in Cochabamba’s Carnival parade

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

This band wore traditional Bolivian dress

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

This troupe was quite large and its performers’ boots rang as they danced

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Extremely colourful dresses, hats and accessories

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

The television crew I sat next to on the day

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Wearing a costume and posing with some of the local ladies

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Anything goes at Carnival including hats featuring Llamas, certificates and a thousand decorations

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

One of the final parade dance troupes was from Colombia and their costumes and dance style varied substantially from the Bolivian groups

The final performance was a group of people dressed up as elderly, with exaggerated masks and walking sticks. Dozens of police followed the old folks, alerting everybody the parade was over.

Following is a compilation of short Cochabamba Carvinval videos I recorded on this day filled with colour, movement and sound:

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