Way back in 2010, my first Carnaval experience in South America was in a small town called Lucelia, Brazil. It was basically an organized street party with lots of beer, dancing, and a bit of chaos mixed in for good measure.
Fast forward nine years later, and I’m in South America again ready for another Carnaval. Only this time, I was in Encarnacion, Paraguay’s Carnaval capital.
Getting a Ticket
Obviously, Encarnacion’s Carnaval is not as well-known compared to the one in Rio de Janeiro, but it follows the same format. It’s just significantly cheaper and requires less planning in advance.
I arrived the day before the last Carnaval session of the year and got my ticket easily. I bought the cheapest ticket at Gs. 30,000 ($4.93), and the 10-year-old girl who sold me the ticket picked the section where I would be sitting also. Also, the ticket office was also a hair salon. Oh, South America!
The ticket said that doors open at 19:00. My group of all foreigners thought we should leave at 18:00. When we got to the gate, they told us that the event wouldn’t start until 21:30. So we sat at a bar across the street until 20:30. When we got there, there was only one couple sitting in the front row. As it was open seating, we got to be as close to the parade as possible.
The Beginning of the Show
When as Carnaval began, the Sambodrome was pretty empty. I think by 23:00, people were filling up the seats.
I don’t know how many feathers, sequins, and Spandex are in Encarnacion, but I’m pretty sure the city’s entire supply was all in the Sambodromo in someone’s costume.
I love the fact that women of all shapes and sizes were walking in this parade. Honestly, I wish I had the courage to show off pretty much everything to the world, but I’m not there yet.
The Men in Carnaval
The men also in full costume (or lack thereof). But again, I really liked that people of all sizes and shapes participate.
This was a 5-hour show and kids were dancing at midnight in full costume. I was very impressed.
The Pain and Suffering
The shoes that these women wore were crazy, but some of these women looked like they were in pain. Also, along the route, there were plenty of helpers to tighten headpieces and have extra double-sided tape ready to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions.
The Canned Foam
In Encarnacion, one must have canned spray foam to celebrate Carnaval properly. Each can cost Gs. 15,000 ($2.47) per can, and many were sold. At first, it was fun to get sprayed. As the night wore on, at 30°C (86°F) and 75% humidity, I was ready for a shower as the foam got sticky from my sweat.
By 01:30, Carnaval was still going, but the pace had slowed down tremendously. Twenty to 30 minutes went by before a group of dancers appeared. Everyone in my group had enough, and slowly, we walked back to the hostel through the busy streets of Encarnacion.
I heard fireworks at 03:00 signaling the end of Carnaval. I was safely in bed. It was a long night, but I had fun. It was all I imagined Carnaval to be. While it might not be as famous as Rio’s, Encarnacion put up a great show. I may not do Carnaval again, but at least I got to experience one in a Sambodromo.