I once expressed my bewliderment at the Kite Festival in Villa de Leyva that takes place every year. My Colombian friend, full of insight as ever, replied simply that Colombians would use any excuse to celebrate something. My kind of country.
Little did I know, at that time, just how right he was. There are several bizarre festivals that happen around Colombia throughout the year, and also many normal ones that should all be checked out. Here are some of my favourites from the more confusing end of the spectrum of events in Colombia:
Festival del Burro
The Festival of the Donkey might not be something that sounds particularly interesting at first, but San Antero’s celebration of the animal reflects the uniqueness of the Costeño people. It celebrates their culture, their traditions, their music, and donkeys get dressed up in make up for a parade.
Reinado del Feo
The Ugly King is not a crown many would like, but in Rionegro there is an annual competition to find the ugliest man in Colombia. In return for their ugliness, they receive a crown, some money, and a little bit of attention in a country otherwise famed for its beautiful men and women.
Festival de la Subienda
In February, Honda (in Tolima) celebrates the arrival of fish. I did say they need little reason to celebrate.
The festival is a good one to visit since you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best fish in the country and, moreover, enjoy the rather bizarre ‘nightmare parade’.
Carnaval del Diablo
In Riosucio, every two years the Carnival of the Devil takes place. The basic theme of the festival is surrealism; reality is transformed by extravagant costumes and shows of dance, poetry and music. The idea, historically, has always been to celebrate Colombia’s rich racial diversity, and to encourage open-mindedness towards different races. This idea sticks around today, but you’ll pretty much go for the insane costumes.
Ok, so La Tomatina is really a Spanish tradition, but it has to be included in any list of weird festivals since the idea is basically to throw tomatoes at strangers.
Sutamarchan, which is near Villa de Leyva, is where this festival takes place, and it happens around mid-June every year, since the area always has an abundance of tomatoes at this time.
It might not be as famous as the Spanish version, but it’s certainly just as messy.