Inaugural Carnival parade celebrates Latin American heritage

One of the great qualities that Indiana University Kokomo possesses is the opportunity to experience different cultures and allow students to learn more about the importance of diversity.

On Feb. 20, students from their Spanish classes participated in a huge Carnival parade that represents Colombian culture. This parade was organized by Professor J.R. Pico, and it marched all over campus.

“For me it is very important to share the authentic Hispanic culture with the students as an instrument  to overcome misconceptions and stereotypes,” Pico said. “The carnival (which in the USA is called ‘Mardi Gras’) is one of the most iconic celebrations in the Hispanic world, and I thought that getting my students involved in this event was a very fun and cultural experience.”

Carnival is a major festival in Colombia and many parts of the world. It is a celebration of the days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season observed by Christians. Lent is a time of fasting and reflecting on oneself, so people view Carnival as a way to indulge in rich food, sing loudly, dance joyously, and have a good time before observing a solemn occasion for the next forty days.

Madeline Sinnamon

Carnival de Barranquilla is the largest Carnival celebration in the world, beating the scale of Brazil’s Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The first day of this joyous celebration begins on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and lasts until Fat Tuesday. Music, dancing, performers, and vivid costumes fill the city streets each day of the festival.

On the first day, La Batalla de Flores (Battle of the Flowers) takes place with a grand show filled with dancing, music, and dazzling displays. The second day features La Gran Parada (Grand Parade), which is a competition to have the best parade performances.

The third day is the Orchestra Festival filled with lively music, and the final day is the burial of Joselito Carnaval, a symbolic figure of ending joyous festivities in order to observe the solemness of Lent.

Barranquilla’s Carnival is famous for its massive parade featuring colorful costumes with masks and elaborate floats. The most significant members of the parade and the festival are the Carnival royalty, which are the king and queen of the event.

The idea of having a carnival parade here at IU Kokomo started with lectures in Spanish and Folklore classes, according to Pico. Students decorated the walls of the Multicultural Center that helped students and faculty learn the importance of this tradition in 2022. While the class took down the decorations, two students jokingly told Pico that the class should celebrate Carnival on campus one day. This year, that dream became a reality.

IU Kokomo’s Carnival parade follows and reflects the traditions of Barranquilla. Students and faculty marched throughout campus playing music traditional instruments and wearing brightly colored costumes and handmade masks. Each member of the parade also wore Carnival T-Shirts that were designed and made by an artist from Colombia. The parade also had a Carnival King and Queen: Hayden Turner and Daryan Sears. Students and faculty enjoyed the lively celebration, and many joined the fun as the procession passed by.

There are many opportunities to learn about different cultures here at IU Kokomo and the celebrations that make up our diverse world. The cultural events that take place here, like this unique parade, provide both an educational and enjoyable experience that anyone can participate.