Carnival celebrations in Venezuela influenced by cultures from around world

Locals continue tradition despite economic recession

By Cody Weddle

EL CALLAO, Venezuela - Carnival celebrations are in full swing in much of Latin America, and one of the most diverse parties in Venezuela includes influences from cultures around the world.

Despite the country's economic recession, locals are continuing the tradition.

Long considered some of the most unique and extravagant Carnival celebrations in the country, the celebrations this year have gained new significance after some international recognition.

In a small mining town in southeastern Venezuela, El Callao, the Carnival traditions started at midnight Saturday.

Painted men prowled the streets, painting anyone who didn't pay up. Meanwhile, madams filled the streets Sunday, representing the town's unmarried women.

The soundtrack for the dayslong party was traditional Calipso music. 

The customs are said to have been influenced by cultures from the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.

"Because of gold fever, people came from all over, like the British Antilles. And those cultures were planted here," event organizer Israel Brown said.  

The unique celebration prompted UNESCO to declare the event in December an intangible cultural heritage.

"There are more than 160 uninterrupted years of Carnival. We have never missed a year," event organizer Elizabeth Lunar said.

The town was heavily militarized ahead of the celebration because illegal, rival mining gangs are known to operate in the area. 

The country's recession also affected this year's crowds. For one British man, it marked his 21st year attending the event.

"Most people are like, broke, so they can't come here. There are quite a few people missing who usually come," Patrick Donne said.

For those who could pay for the trip, the unique traditions live on.

Carnival ends on Tuesday.

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