Carnaval en la Punta de los Remedios, La Guajira, Colombia

The famous Carnaval de Barranquilla might take all of the attention in Colombia, but there is a little-known secret about a spectacular carnival experience near the Caribbean sea and beach in La Guajira. La Punta de los Remedios is a small pueblo village within the Dibulla municipality in La Guajira. This location is about 3 hours East of the city of Santa Marta along the Caribbean coast. From the plaza in La Punta, you can see the Sierra Nevada mountains on a clear day. The celebration is held annually on the Sunday before Mardi Gras.

27867904_10211485906044111_6980460315365090493_nLike all carnival celebrations in Colombia, you should expect to have flour, foam, and/or water not just thrown at you, but even smeared on your face. It’s all in good fun, and its done with genuine happiness, just prepare that it will happen no matter what. The more you fight it, the more people will want to target you for extra laughs at your expense. Just cover yourself with flour from the beginning in order to deter problems. Everyone wears bright colored outfits, very similar to what I exhibited in my article about the nearby Carnival celebrations in Dibulla, La Guajira. You will find plenty of musical acts, dance performances, and food & beverages. Sold all over are empanadas, skewers, sausage, fries, and more.

Attending the event with some local Peace Corps colleagues and playing with Dibulla kids like always:

I also got to perform Samba (before I got flour all over me) with the Fundación Carnaval from La Punta. It was an exhilarating presentation, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to perform in front of so many people and the first time with my new back-piece wings my husband helped me assemble:

 

 

Check out these videos from past Carnival celebrations in La Punta:

Another Reason Why Locals Dislike Expats

I decided to a share a story from my visit almost two years ago (March 2017) to Casa Elemento Hostel in Minca, Colombia – a breath-taking and popular hammock viewpoint hostel in the Sierra Nevada mountains just outside of Santa Marta. Though the view and the food were outstanding, I was really upset to see how I was treated by a bartender there. My objective with this article is to bring awareness to all of us as travelers in a foreign land, especially to increase our ability to see how our actions can appear imperialistic, a.k.a. toxic settler/colonizer mentality, or simply down-right rude.

I was loving the music being played at the hostel, which I should mention is owned by a North American woman. It was mostly U.S. American hip hop and rock tunes being played. I don’t know why I thought it would be fun to request a Latinx song to get the mostly European and U.S. American guests to start dancing and experience this very important part of the culture in Colombia. For those of you who know me, I’m always excited to get the dance party started. I went to ask the hostel staff about my music request, and the whole interaction went down like this:

Me: Can I please play a Salsa song?
Mexican Bartender #1: Sure! You’ll have to ask the owner if that’s okay though.
Me: *Confused* …ummm, okay

*I walk up the few hill stairs from the bar closer to the restaurant.**
Me: Hi are you the owner? I was told by the bartender to ask you if it’s okay to play Salsa music?
North-American Owner: Oh that’s so cool! Yes, everything is up to the discretion of the bartender. My rule is no electronic music. That’s so cool though, Salsa!

*I quickly walk back down the hill to the bar where I couldn’t find the first bartender I talked to, so I talked to the second.*
Me: Hi I just talked to the owner to get permission to request a Salsa song and she said it was okay.
British Bartender #2: Oh, well, I don’t have that kind of music.
Me: That’s okay, I have my phone we can plug in
Bartender #2: I’m sorry, but if you can’t tell, there are mostly British and [U.S.] Americans here, so we are playing music that most people want to hear.
Me: But, we are all visiting Colombia.
Bartender #2: *Smirks, shrugs, and walks away without a care in the world*

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Panoramic view from Casa Elemento Hostel


Not only was I appalled by this poor customer service but I was deeply disturbed by this insensitive way of treating a non-European, non-traditional U.S. American customer. I spoke to Bartender #2 in English as a Colombian-American, so I can’t imagine how local Colombian employees and/or guests are treated by this bartender. I told the only other Colombian guest I met at the hostel, and she was also deeply distraught by this treatment.

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Sunset view from Minca, Colombia


I was livid, but I appreciated that both Bartender #1 and the Colombian receptionist Jessica at least listened to my complaints. Ultimately, I do think Casa Elemento needs to talk to Bartender #2 about their insensitive comments because this will deter local Colombian or overall Latinx/Latin-American customers in the future.

Moral of the story: at least TRY to act like you are interested in the music, culture, and customs of the country you are visiting or living in. We are guests in that country short term or long term, so we need to show respect. In the future, I will try to avoid touristy places that don’t have mostly locals in order to avoid this kind of treatment.

Thank goodness for those breath-taking views, motorcycle rides through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the coffee tour we took, all of which made up for poor treatment at the hostel. Minca is one of the only areas along the Caribbean coast of Colombia that cultivates coffee, as it is rare in this region compared to the interior’s Coffee Triangle. I highly recommend checking out La Victoria Coffee Farms for a tour, and there is a craft brewery across the path from them called Nevada Cerveceria.

 

My Cuerpo de Paz Service Reflections

One of the proudest moments in my life was when I began Peace Corps training in August of 2016. I was still working on Travel Latina, however difficult it was to access the internet. I was ecstatic to share a very special article by Danica Liriano called My Narrative as an Afro-Latina Peace Corps Volunteer. Nothing could make me happier to publish and share this article on our blog and Instagram account. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I ran head-first into an unexpected comment made on her article that made me question everything I was doing. Name is changed to initials in order to protect identity:

“[DFV]: thanks for sharing this piece! i definitely validate the authors experiences, but i think their critique is incomplete, since they ultimately place faith and believe in the peace corps’ agenda. peace corps was a geopolitical tool designed by JFK and part of his alliance for progress to stifle anti-colonial revolution (following success of the cuban revolution) through reform that masked foreign, largely US, penetration of national economies and cultures across the third world, especially in latin america. i expect more of the author frankly. nameley, i expect them to expand their critique in order to indict the peace corps as a neocolonial, humanitarian, white saviour institution that inflicts violence on the countries and communities it interacts with. i believe we need to be more mindful of the need to center subaltern voices and stop believing the west can provide the answers, since it has only played, and continues to play, oppressor!”

I was floored. Not even 1 month into my service training, I questioned everything that I thought about my international development career, and everything that I thought about the Peace Corps (PC) ever since my Dad inspired me to do it. I began obsessing about the Saviour Complex, and how I could avoid any imperialistic, white supremacist, and/or neocolonial practices. I decided that I needed to try harder. To make sure to community organize and perform my work with integrity, with full support or in collaboration with the community, and with sustainability in mind. In international development, I truly believe that Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is the best, most sustainable way to work with communities. The ABCD approach “builds on the assets that are found in the community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to realize and develop their strengths. This makes it different to a Deficit-Based approach that focuses on identifying and servicing needs” (Nurture Development 1). In addition to that, it’s necessary to implement effective impact evaluation to see if an international development service or aid is actually working, or in order to look at ways to improve it.

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Our Peace Corps site placement in Dibulla, La Guajira

Moreover, there were even more problematic PC stereotypes to work through. There was a comment made when I announced on Facebook that I was about to leave the country to begin the PC:

AJ: Felicitaciones! Sabes que lo dicen Cuerpo de Pasear 
Translation: “Congratulations! You know they call it Travel Corps ”

Peace Corps in Spanish is Cuerpo de Paz. Pasear means “to travel or take a promenade out on the town”, so the play on words turns Paz, or “Peace”, into Pasear. In other words, my FB friend was poking fun at the infamous way that PC volunteers use their time in their assigned host-country to travel rather than actually do work.

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A bird friend in Montes de María, Colombia

I’m not going to lie, some of the most necessary trips I took out of my site placement was our official PC “Weekend Aways” to the nearby cities once a month. Never have I stared my privilege so closely in the face, and been so ruefully aware of my U.S. born & raised, U.S. passport-holding, light-skin Latinx, privileged self. Never had I felt so disgustingly and embarrassingly fragile, with my time in the PC having the worst impact on my mental health, which I believe had a direct negative impact on my immune system. I am wary to admit that my trips away were not only to “pasear”, rather to attend to my mental health. So much so, that I didn’t even realize the extent of my poor mental health state until PC doctors demanded that I pack up and leave site on an official ‘Medical Evacuation’ just two months shy of finishing my 27 month service.

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The view on Santa Marta and the Caribbean sea from Minca, Colombia

Don’t get me wrong, I got to know my motherland in a way that was unforgettable, especially when visiting other volunteers in their assigned sites, and visiting my family in Bogotá. Unlike most other volunteers, I did not have the budget to visit the USA as often as they did (read: once in 2 years, while most PCVs visited 2-3 times), which did not bother me too much except for being 30 meant I missed a lot of weddings. Unfortunately, I did observe that many fellow People of Color in the program struggled with not being able to visit their family as often as non-POC. WOC, in my cohort particularly, dropped out more often than everyone else, which I think is a sad, yet clear, sign at how difficult it is to complete service with little means or support, along with poor treatment. At the end of the day, most locals at my site did not have the resources to travel in-country the way we did, or even access to certain medical or psychological treatment that we had, and many times I allowed it to eat me up inside. On the other hand, I had to remind myself that I was a volunteer with no real income, and furthermore, that I could not have the pretentious saviour complex.

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A coffee farm outside of Salento, Colombia

I’m far from perfect, the Peace Corps is far from perfect, the United States is far from perfect, no one is perfect and EVERYONE is problematic. I’m willing to get called out, receive constructive criticism, and become a better volunteer and overall person. I needed to make sure to work in the best way that *I* could in order to avoid the aforementioned issues. At the end of the day, I taught, I had important conversations, I facilitated, I empowered, I led, and I did everything I could to share what I hope is beneficial knowledge in Dibulla, La Guajira with the utmost mindfulness. There is no true way to measure whether I was successful in any way, or whether I was *woke* enough. However, I feel satisfied when I observe the way people in Dibulla talk about race more positively, seeing past stereotypes (i.e. how US citizens are supposed to be), increasing savings and personal money management awareness, less bullying among students, and overall more interest in entrepreneurship. If I did anything at all, at least I am satisfied to know that I created connections that will last a lifetime.

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Trekking to a cacao chocolate farm in Montes de María, Colombia

Do I recommend the PC? It’s not for everyone, in fact I wonder if it’s best for those who have money or their families have it. Perhaps, it’s better for the fresh college grad who’s use to living on a very meagre budget. I was neither of these, but the reality is that I want an international development career, and the jobs I desired weren’t hiring me because I needed at least 2 years of fieldwork experience. It was my only option, even if I had giant student loans to attend to, even if I put my physical and mental health at risk. I was determined to struggle through it all, while trying my hardest to stay “woke”. The BEST part of it all? I got to explore my ancestral roots in a way even my family couldn’t guide me through.

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My altar honoring my ancestral roots in Colombia

 

Hermanas are the Best to Travel With

This is dedicated to my sister Michele Catarina Tracy Chavarriaga for her birthday

Gritting your teeth while sitting in the car during a long road trip, you would yell, “déjame en paz!” This was normal for you when we were young since I was usually the annoying one trying to bother you. You couldn’t sit still, loved shaking and moving in your seat…which we would find out was because you were holding your pee because Papi would get mad at us if we needed to use the restroom too many times.

We would play the road trip game “I spy with my little eye”, and sing “Cielito Lindo” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” in order to avoid annoying our parents with the constant restless question of “Are we there yet?” We would listen to Carlos Vives, Gypsy Kings, Gloria Estefan, Maná, all kinds of Classical music, and much more on the vehicle’s stereo system.

Despite all of the fights, the long drives, and the cranky attitudes, one of the best parts of growing up was traveling with my hermanita. There isn’t anyone else that has experienced the world almost the exact same way as me growing up. We both had the privilege of having humble parents that valued experiences and education rather than material things. I am so grateful for them.

Our trips were either to the park in our community, or to go visit familia in South America. We also moved all over the USA, lived in northern México, and visited our family in Colombia together. Every family trip was made together up until our college years. We were quite literally THE traveling hermanas.

Following are some of our most fond memorias I have explorando with you

Where visiting our Colombian family every couple of years was always a big deal:

Bogota 1995 - First time remembering Caro

The first time we remember meeting our prima Caro at the airport in Bogotá, Colombia in 1995

Living in Texas for almost 7 years meant exploring the U.S. Southwest:

 

Living in México for 2 years meant exploring a lot of this gorgeous country and receiving lots of visitors:

Moving up North to Michigan meant traveling became less frequent, but the few trips we did take became more extreme:

Bogota Airport Arrival 2001

The first time traveling to stay with family in Bogotá, Colombia for a whole summer without our parents was in 2001. This is our whole family greeting us at the airport.

 

Moving away from home means meeting up to explore together:

 

Michele, I truly hope we never stop adventuring together. When and where will our next trip together be? TE AMO MUCHO!

Anyone else LOVE traveling with their sister or siblings? Send us stories, photos, comments, etc!

Advice from Top Latinx LGBTQ+ Travellers

Traveling as a LGBTQ+ person has become easier in certain countries, but it still requires a great amount of preparation and research before embarking on a trip. We reached out to 11 amazing Latinx LGBTQ+ travelers for their advice, and each have different backgrounds and experiences that offer a unique perspective on seeing the globe.

Check out these amazing people, Instagram accounts, their Latin American & Caribbean (LatAm) backgrounds, and most importantly, their personal stories.

Samar Rodriguez, IG: @dr_simplicity
Pronoun: They/Them
Current Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
LatAm Motherland Roots:  Venezuela, Trinidad, & Jamaica

I love traveling and have to go to a pretty special range of countries. I travel for both pleasure and work (I’m a social scientist who uses ethnography). Admittedly, I try to mix the two together almost every trip. I’d advise other queer travellers to remember to pack ahead of time- something that really grounds them. We can’t always anticipate how we will be read in a new country/region. I note this in particular because people assume there is one way to “look Latinx”; because anti-blackness manifests in unexpected places; and because ideas about femininity/masculinity/queerness are constructed in ways that won’t always fit your previous experiences. It can be really disorienting, so I’d advise anyone to carry with them something or some practice that brings them back to center.”

Samar - London, UK
Samar in London, UK


Charlie J. Stoever, IG: @vulnerabletraveler
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: Santa Rosa, California
LatAm Motherland Roots: México

 https://instagram.com/p/Bh72pygn-FK/

“I’ve never regretted stepping out of my comfort zone and being vulnerable. I’ve come out to people in lots of different countries and I’m so glad I did. Safety is a huge part of traveling as a whole, but adding the LGBT aspect can add another layer of danger to traveling. My advice is to go with your instinct. If your gut tells you not to come out to someone, don’t do it. But if there’s something inside of you telling you that the person or people you’re interacting with will continue to make you feel safe, I encourage you to do so.

In my travels, I’ve never regretted coming out to people, but I am constantly gauging whether or not I feel safe in a certain place or environment.

Also, the Tinder application is a great way to meet other queer people abroad. I’ve met up with people and been physical with them, but most of the time I’ve had platonic meet ups and made lifelong friends through Tinder. I find it easier to go on dates with people outside of the U.S. anyway. Have fun, and if you feel safe doing so, be yourself! Don’t pressure yourself to put yourself at risk. Travel is all about growing while being aware of your safety, whatever that means for you.”

Char-Stoever-Rio-San-Juan
Charlie at Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

Tannia Suárez with her wife Erin, IG:  @wanderlustladies
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Tannia’s LatAm Motherland Roots: México

 “My advice is to do your research! As infuriating as it can be, sometimes you need to modify your behavior (mostly referring to PDA) to “be respectful” of different cultures and, more importantly, not to find yourself in harm’s way. I’m not only talking about international travel. To be honest, I find that it’s the same advice whether you’re traveling in the U.S. or abroad.

When we have the opportunity and option, my wife and I try to pick a hotel or apartment in or near an LGBT-friendly area. It may help you feel more relaxed and in theory, be a bit safer.

Actually, we’ve been traveling as digital nomads for over three years, and haven’t had any super negative experiences. The bad experiences we’ve had have been for being women, not specifically for being LGBT. Overall, I’d say be aware that you are a target simply because of your gender, and maybe more so if you’re perceived to be LGBT, and plan accordingly.

To me, that means doing more daytime activities and limiting evening activities. It’s not a huge deal for us, because we don’t really like being out at night anyway. But if it is a big deal for you, just be mindful of language barriers and cultural differences, and plan ahead to know what and where to avoid. The most important thing is to not let fear hold you back. The world is an amazing place to explore, and you deserve to experience it!”

Tannia - Paris
Tannia in Paris, France


Stephanie Ortega Esquinca and her wife Taylor, IG:
@lesbinomadic
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: Laredo, TX
Steph’s Motherland Roots: México

 https://www.instagram.com/p/-SbsLcxwzC/

 “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt” – Into the Wild.

Just remember, you don’t have to be radical or be an activist to create change. Remember that representation matters, especially in the travel industry. Just by being yourself, you’re constantly breaking down people’s stereotypes of Latinx community/culture. ​The world wouldn’t be the same without us…without you.”

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@lesbinomadic in Cairo, Egypt


Ivana Bolfarini, IG:
@itsme_ivanab
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: Weston, CT
LatAm Motherland Roots: Uruguay & Brazil

 
Being queer in a heteronormative world can sometimes be hard to navigate. There are places around the world that may not be as accepting to our identities. Before traveling I make sure to do a lot of research in terms of regulations in the countries I want to visit and make sure I do my due diligence. Instagram is actually a great way to do that since you get the chance to reach out to other members of the community that may have visited the destination in the past. Regardless of research, I don’t let it get in the way of where I want to travel and explore. It’s more for a sense of precaution and to be aware of where I’m going to be traveling and how that fits with the customs and cultures of those around me.”

Ivana - Oslo, Norway
Ivana in Oslo, Norway

Jensine Gomez and Abriana Fee Vicioso, IG: @jenandabi
Pronoun: She/Her & She/Her
Current Hometown: Orlando, FL
Jen’s LatAm Motherland Roots: Colombia
Abi’s LatAm Motherland Roots: Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico

 https://www.instagram.com/p/BX1lPmlnoGE/

 “The advice that we would offer other LGBTQ+ Latinx travellers is that although traveling the world brings many fears, there are so many places in the world that we deserve to see. See the world. Go to the places you have always dreamed to go to! Don’t let your fears stop you. Just always remember how important it is to do your research about wherever you are going!

Research their societal norms, their customs, and their cultures. Having this knowledge can help you take the right precautions. Something that helps us when we are traveling is to find some LGBT friendly areas or hotels wherever we go. The LGBTQ+ community is everywhere! It doesn’t hurt to reach out before you go. Always remember that everyone’s experience is different, but something that has given us peace of mind (especially being in a masc/fem relationship) has been finding other LGBTQ+ couples similar to ourselves, and reaching out to them about their experience in a particular country that we are interested in. This does not necessarily define our experience, but it can give us an idea of some things to be aware of.

While taking these precautions, always stay true to who you are. When we travel the world, as LGBTQ+ Latinx travellers, our clothes may change, we may not be able to show physical affection, but we always remember to allow our beauty within to shine. Through spreading love, kindness, and positivity, acceptance & tolerance may grow in places where it may have never been expected.”

JenandAbi - NYC
Jen & Abi in NYC


Bianca Kea, IG:
@biancakathryn_
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: New York City, NY
LatAm Motherland Roots: México

“Truthfully, I’m still learning how to travel with my girlfriend as an openly Black lesbian so I definitely don’t have all the answers. But I would definitely recommend doing your research prior to traveling to a country, figure out its stance on LGBTQ issues and foreign policy as a whole. That stuff matters, especially in this day and age. Lastly, have a chat with your partner. Get their thoughts and perspective on traveling to that said country. As exciting as traveling is, it can also be intimidating and scary and you want to make sure both parties feel comfortable.”

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Blanca Balli and Yessenia ‘Yesi’ Hernandez, IG:
@thewifeyadventures
Pronoun: She/Her & She/Her
Current Hometown: Dallas, TX
Blanca’s LatAm Motherland Roots: México & Spain
Yesi’s LatAm Motherland Roots: México

thewifeyadventures - Capital Hill, Seattle, WA
The best advice that we could give is to plan what you need to, but don’t forget to have fun! Have fun exploring new environments and experiencing it together. Sometimes it can feel a little uncomfortable to step into a new world if you haven’t quite reached the level of veteran traveler. This can be one of the most amazing bonding experiences you can have with your favorite person. If you’re new to travel…sign up for point and reward programs! Try different travel companies (airlines, hotels, airbnb) so you can learn which ones work the best for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals and ask them questions about their city (most of the time it’s a compliment to them). Try all the foods. Be present and capture the memories in not just your camera, but in your mind too.

Don’t sweat the small travel hiccups…they happen, and sometimes they can even open up another opportunity unplanned. Read blogs about your next destination to get a better perspective on what to expect or plan for. If you’re up for it, be a part of our community and share your story. No matter how many of us there are sharing travel stories, there is always room for one more!”

wifeyadventures - Dallas, TX
Blanca & Yesi in Dallas, TX


Dinah Becton-Consuegra and her wife Malila, IG: @getlostwithlesbians
Pronoun: She/Her
Current Hometown: San Francisco Bay Area, California
Dinah’s LatAm Motherland Roots: Guatemala and México

 https://www.instagram.com/p/8RnrFfxwzO/?taken-by=travel_latina

“Ultimately, there is an element of fearlessness in being a queer woman of color brings so live and love and go where you want to go just know what that country’s stance is on LGBTQ folk.

That said, since having two children, we are much more cautious. Our advice has shifted from what we would have said as a childless couple. We recommend that you consider seeing parts of the world that might have strict anti-LGBT policies before you consider traveling with children as it adds another layer of danger to bring children into the mix. It is also much harder to “pass” as friends or relatives and get a chance to see places you may not want to bring children into for safety reasons. There is also the concern that if something were to happen while abroad, not all countries recognize same-sex parents to have visiting rights in the hospital for example.

If you are into travel books, some have sections that specific discuss LGBTQ travellers which have been very helpful.

I would consider reaching out to other LGBTQ POC travellers as sometimes the laws are not enforced as strongly for tourists because the country doesn’t want to lose tourism. Other times there are some nuances that research doesn’t capture. For example, pornography and sex toys are not permitted in the United Arab Emirates so if you don’t know this, you could land yourself in serious trouble upon arrival.

With two children, we consider the intersection of LGBTQ friendly countries and family friendly places to really enjoy our travel experiences.

There are some go to places where we go when we just want to be ourselves that aren’t too far from us here in Oakland like Hawai’i and Puerto Vallarta. Sometimes it’s nice not to think about all the details and just go and unwind and enjoy an amazing experience with some element of predictability and familiarity.”

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@Getlostwithlesbians on their baby moon in Maui, Hawai’i

What other Latinx LGBTQ+ travellers should we follow? Are you LGBTQ+ and have advice to give us and/or the community? Please comment below!

 

Introducing: Salomé Luna Gemme

Salomé Gemme is a Cuban-American writer and visual artist from Miami. Growing up in culturally rich Miami infused her personality with a thirst for the new and the meaningful. She carries with her the burden of curiosity, thus she’s dipped her hands into an eclectic array of fields from art, social politics, environmentalism, to emotional and physical health. Exploration is what helps her thrive as a person – she’s set herself on a path to explore both this earth and all the ideas and issues that exist upon it. The best trips give you an appreciation for new places and a new appreciation for old places. 

You can check out Salomé’s website at http://lunagemme.com/, or follow her on IG or Twitter @salomegemme.

Introducing: Camila Luna

Camila was born in New York City to a Colombian mother and African-American father. She spent much of her childhood feeling out of place due to her mixed heritage, but after a year of living in France with her mother and attending an international school, she realized that her “place” was not with one country or ethnicity- she realized she is a global girl. This experience and newfound realization caused Camila to then seek internationalism in all her pursuits- in college she studied abroad in La Habana, Cuba, and majored in intercultural communication and anthropology, and later in graduate school she focused on international education.

 

 

Today, Camila lives in Shanghai, China, and in her free time she can be found travelling,
dreaming up entrepreneurial pursuits, listening to business podcasts, and most of all, dancing! Camila is very excited to be a part of the Travel Latina community and loves to help empower Latinx all over the world to live their best lives. In her writing, Camila likes to highlight the spiritual aspect of living and travelling. You can find her on Instagram at @camila.lunaaaaa.

 

Celebrating Culture Through Traditional Dress is a Form of Travel

Whether you wear your traditional clothing from the motherland while exploring, or you are celebrating your culture in your hometown outside of the motherland, both are equal forms of travel. Maybe you are performing a Folklórico dance at an art museum in Philadelphia you have never visited. Maybe it is “International Day” at school in California. Maybe your spiritual center is offering a cultural day where you get to show your pride, and learn about other countries in Michigan. Maybe your cultural dance group gets to travel to the next city over in Florida to perform. These are some of our favorite photos to feature considering the fact that it feels as if one is transported to the motherland when shared with others. Through these different photos, you allow people to see a small snapshot of what it feels like to be visiting the country you or your family are from.

“No dejes que te roben tu alegría, tu orgullo, tu poder” -@amandaalarah
“I am my Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” -@marley_marz

BONUS! The funniest outfit award for celebrating culture goes to:

Carnaval de Barranquilla

Quien lo Vive es Quien lo Goza

Carnival is a mix of joy and rebellious celebration, and while the world knows all about Rio de Janeiro, it’s Colombia’s festival that has a place in my corazoncito!

The biggest celebration during the week and a half before Ash Wednesday takes place in the industrial port city of Barranquilla. I’ve explored much of the Colombian Caribbean coast’s pre-carnaval celebrations that occur every weekend leading up to Mardi Gras, and my experience was specifically in a small beach-side pueblo in Dibulla, La Guajira about 4 hours from Barranquilla. Recently I had the opportunity to experience the festivity with many of my Peace Corps co-workers in Baranquilla.

I highly encourage everyone to check out this vibrant, colorful, happy, and fun event. It’s no wonder their slogan is always “quien lo vive es quien lo goza“, translating to “who lives it is who enjoys it.”

History
Carnival originates from a combination of pagan ceremonies, catholic beliefs, and ethnic diversity (a mixture of the African, Indigenous, and European traditions), dancing, and music. It was at first a holiday for slaves protesting and mocking the reigning power, religious authority, the wealthiest classes, and other forms of crippling colonization. It later grew to be a celebration of the region. The first documented date in the Carnival’s history was in 1888 when the first King Momo was picked. The King Momo signifies the beginning of festivities, is usually charismatic and/or a good dancer. Unfortunately, the queen is chosen by her physical appearance, unlike the King, as well as her charisma and/or dancing skill. It is customary to choose a King Momo and Queen by schools, institutions, and regions.

Parade
We had a wonderful time! We attended the biggest parade that takes place on Saturday before Mardi Gras by road Via 40. Here is where we haggled for tickets (25,000 Colombian Pesos or about $8.50 USD per person) just outside of the parade gates. We did have to wait around for about an hour in order to find the best price with the help of local Colombian friends. It didn’t help that we were with a small group of “stereotypical” Gringos, therefore we were given higher prices by most. This is where being Latinx or POC and speaking fluent Spanish will help you, and possibly get you in faster with a better price offer. The same Colombian friends said the tickets are usually more expensive if you buy ahead of time because the tickets we got were last minute. We went to the parade again on Sunday, which was free but not as extravagant as Saturday.

The most comical of these caricatures is the Marimonda because they are usually silly and perform goofy dance moves. They are always trying to make fun of everyone, especially the ruling powers. When I ask what type of animal the mask represents, I get hilarious explanations:  “a monkey”, or “no it’s not an animal, it represents male and female genitalia on the face!”

One of the first quotes I saw in large, bold print on a taxi when I first arrived to Barranquilla for my initial Peace Corps training said “Más feliz que un gringo con disfraz de Marimonda“, which translates to “More happy than a gringo with a Marimonda costume”, meaning that even foreigners enjoy the fun that this caricature brings.

A couple of us were featured in the local newspaper El Herlado with exactly that quote as the title since Colombians have been very excited about the decrease in violence and the uptick in tourism.

Entertainment
The most popular form of music and dancing during the parade and other events is Cumbia and Mapalé:

Two highly recommended evening events we attended for open-air dancing were the Carnavalada in the Parque Cultural del Caribe with live music, and the famous La Troja on Carrera 44 con calle 74. Take a look at the Carnaval’s main website for a list of events starting from pre-carnival season until Mardi Gras. The most common music played at these venues is Vallenato, Champeta, Salsa, Reggaeton and other Afro-Colombian beats.

Warnings
Be aware of three potentially annoying things to look out for at this celebration.
1) Constant flour, foam, and water being thrown in your face, hair, clothing, and even directly in your eyes. This will happen no matter what you try, so if you know you won’t like this, don’t go.
2) Be wary of wearing fancy jewellery, clothing, or carrying your phone. Colombians will always urge you to not “
dar papaya” which is slang for “making yourself a target.”
3) Black Face is very prevalent throughout the festivity which is cringe-worthy. Be prepared to see this, while most dancers and paraders are a mix of black and brown Colombians, and while the majority of the queens are white or light-skin Colombians. Be careful if people dressed like this approach you because they like to intimidate tourists and foreigners to give them money, and they will try to touch you with the tar they are painted with.

black face

This caricature is supposed to represent African slaves mocking their masters. They cover themselves with black tar, wear large colorful hats, and make crazy movements with their mouth.

 

Experience it yourself, por que quien lo vive es quien lo goza!  Carnaval de Barranquilla‘s main parade takes place the Saturday before Mardi Gras every year. If the time coincides, flights to Colombia are very cheap in February!

To hype you up, enjoy a video I organized of our 2017 experience:

The Most Unique Places Featured on TL

The best part of featuring travel photography is that we get to see where most Latinxs travel to, while learning about brand new places we have never heard of!

Based on our usual featured photos, the most popular destinations for Latinxs are Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Cuba, Thailand, France, Spain, Greece, Indonesia, and Morocco. We love every pic and encourage you to keep getting those passport stamps. Remember: there’s no wrong way to do it!

Whether it’s a secret location off the beaten path in the USA, or a city in an ill-frequented country, these fresh, unique spots below stick out to us the most…and are next on our travel lists.

This is the last edition in our photography series, inspired by “How to Feature Your Photography on Travel Latina“, and we hope you enjoyed them.

To be featured on @travel_latina, email us at info@travellatina.org and send us your original and high quality travel photography. Don’t forget to include your Instagram name and the description of the location of each photo. Please remember to be patient since we do receive a high number of requests to be featured, but don’t be afraid to kindly follow-up after a few weeks if we still haven’t featured you.

Feliz viaje, viajeras!