Officially the world's longest carnival celebration, lasting over six weeks, Montevideo's Afro-Uruguyan Carnival (or El Carnaval de Montevideo) is an event that no visitor to Uruguay can afford to miss. Attended by an astonishing 850,000 of Montevideo's 1.3 million-person population, it is a time when glitter and streamers fill the sultry night air, while competing carnival troupes, masked and plumed, perform nightly on open-air platforms, and bands of musicians (murgas) roam the streets. The carnival events, beyond their spectacular aesthetic value, also form an important link between modern Uruguyan culture and that of yesteryear - the 'sweeper', a character whose duty in the past was to sweep away evil spirits, these days uses his broom to juggle, and is rated by the judges on his dexterity; while the murga's songs employ well-known folk melodies, but feature lyrics relating to current events and the biggest news stories of the year. Described as 'an artistic outburst of religious fervour', those intending to travel to Uruguay should do everything they can to coincide their trip with the Montevideo Carnival.
Date: 26 January to 10 February 2012