WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao — Residents of Curaçao poured into the streets yesterday for a colorful party in celebration of Carnival.
The Gran Marcha saw thousands of participants don colorful outfits and march miles to downtown Willemstad.
By 11 a.m., revelers in the Grand Dome near the start of the route were in full swing, dancing to the music and taking to the street to play games as they waited for the parade to step off. The parade didn’t arrive until nearly three-and-a-half hours later, but no one seemed to mind the wait.
In Otrabanda, just across Sint Anna Bay from the iconic Handelskade, where the parade was apparently supposed to end by about 7 p.m., the mood was just as jovial as the hour came and went. Music filled the night air, and people lined the sidewalks along De Rouvilleweg and crowded into Brionplein square to keep the party going.
Carnival Curaçao traces its origins to a European tradition. The island’s elite would host festivities, including masquerade balls, in celebration of Lent leading up to Easter.
During those parties, slaves on the island started imitating plantation owners, but they added in their African tradition into the festivities, donning colorful costumes. They also told stories about to keep alive their history and the memories of their ancestors.
The modern incarnation of the festival dates to 1961, when Benjamin Wever, also known as Shon Bènchi, created the street festival it is today. The event, which blends European, Indonesian, Asian and Caribbean traditions, is said to be both the largest and longest carnival in the Caribbean.