South America is an enormously diverse continent, but one thing the different countries have in common, is their love of a good party. The continent is home to some of the world’s best celebrations – from Rio’s world-famous Carnival to lesser-known events dedicated to music, food and wine. This time of year is one of the best times to join in the party, with some great events taking place across South America.
Let’s take a look at a few.
Rio Carnival, Brazil: 5th – 10th February
With over two million revellers each day, Rio’s carnival is the world’s largest street party. It’s held 40 days before Easter, just before the start of Lent. The heart of Carnival is its samba music – a Brazilian dance which has African influences. Parades of dancers and floats take place all over the city, but the festivities centre around the giant Sambadrome. Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, it’s a specially designed samba stadium that seats 70,000 people, and is home to the most extravagant parades. Each night different samba schools from around the city go on parade, competing to wow the crowd with the best dances and the most elaborate floats and costumes. Then the dancing carries on long into the night at samba balls and street parties around the city
Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, Peru: 2nd – 18th February
Each February the Peruvian city of Puno, close to Lake Titicaca, holds a celebration in honour of its patron saint, the Virgen de la Candelaria; better known as the Virgin Mary. The festival mixes Catholic and traditional Andean influences, with the main centrepiece being a folk dance competition. Over 40,000 dancers and 5,000 musicians show off the dances from their communities, dressed in specially made costumes and masks. The party spills out onto the streets which turns into a mass of dancing, music, eating, drinking and celebrating.
Viña del Mar International Song Festival, Chile: 22nd – 27th February
South America’s answer to the Eurovision Song Contest, the Viña del Mar International Song Festival takes place over five days each February. The event has been running since 1960 and has two different contests – one for folk singers and one for international singers – with entrants competing to win a ‘gaviota de plata’ (silver seagull). Crowds of 15,000 gather to watch the event, which also includes performances from big names in the Latin music world like Ricky Martin and Carlos Santana, as well as international stars like Elton John, Tom Jones and Sting.
Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival, Argentina: February – March
Each year the Argentinian wine region of Mendoza celebrates the wine harvest with a feast of eating, drinking and music. The event is known as the Vendimia, and the build-up starts at the end of the previous year. First each of the 18 departments in the Mendoza province choose their own queen. Then at the start of March 20,000 people come to Mendoza city for a huge celebration. The regional winners compete to be crowned National Grape Harvest Queen and there are feasts, fireworks, concerts and parades – helped along with plenty of local wine.