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Embracing the spirit of Carnaval - Buenos Aires' Milongas de Carnaval

(Photo copyright Martin Bratina)


You have probably never seen The Pope dancing tango. You probably wouldn’t believe it if you did. But if you had been fortunate to attend one particular Milongas De Carnaval milonga during February, you would be forgiven for doubting yourself. For there was certainly a man in flowing white robes dancing tango, moving with grace and elegance and in his arms was none other than a ravishingly fire-engine red fish-net stocking clad woman with a devilish mass of red curly hair. Do not fear - you're not going mad. It's just the spirit of Carnaval creeping into milonga halls like the infectious murga beats drifting through the city.

The heart beat and rhythm of Buenos Aires has been exceptionally loud over the past three weeks as it’s summer and Buenos Aires has been taken over by Carnival (or carnaval) celebrations. Murgas (bands of marching percussionists and dancers) have been drumming up a storm in various barrios (neighbourhoods), singing out their songs until all hours of the night.  While the ‘carnaval of the country’ (complete with grand parades of flamboyantly costumed performers) is located in Gualeguaychú, a city 250km outside of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires itself hosts its array of mini-carnavals in the hearts of its barrios.

Over the last three weeks, various neighbourhoods have been revelling in celebrations with music, parades, drumming, vibrant costumes, plenty of dancing and the drums of the murgas reverberating late into the hot summer nights. The streets are abundant with colour and vitality. They have been blocked to traffic and played host to an array of chori-pan (Argentina’s  street food of BBQ-ed chorizo in a bread roll) vendors, dancers in flamboyant costumes, large bands of drummers, groups of friends and families. While not as grandiose as the Carnavals of Rio de Janeiro, the atmosphere over the city is electric as revellers party until late.

The spirit of Carnaval is not just limited to the streets and murgas either. Various milongas (places to dance tango) around town embrace the carnival spirit and inject a little bit of chaos from the streets, onto the usually sombre dancefloor. Milongueros (tango dancers) turn up in all variety of costumes and you could end up dancing with anyone from a nun to Messi or a man with a mass of blue curly hair. By the wee small hours, the music has changed to embrace the party atmosphere and revellers run riot squirting foam from a can, out over the dance floor. The playfulness is infectious.

Milongas de Carnaval aims to bring the spirit of tango and meld it with the rhythm and festivity of carnaval. Held in the open air from 1900hs until midnight, there are free open classes, live orchestras, performances and dance floors in the middle of the street. It’s the neighbourhood passion of tango you’d expect to see throughout Buenos Aires and it welcomes everyone, young and old.  The next Milonga de Carnaval is on the 28th February and March 1st and 2nd will mark the last weekend of the carnival celebrations with parades happening all over the central city.  Entry is free.

What you need to know:

MILONGAS DE CARNAVAL: It’s all happening this Friday 28th February in Villa Crespo (corner of Drago y Av. Corrientes).  You can get there on the subte Linea B and the station Malabia


1900 hs. La Colmenita (Children’s theatre)

2000 hs. Clase de baile: Sorpresa

Live Music

22 hs. Sexteto Fantasma invitados Juan Villareal y Martin “El Pitu Frontera”.

23 hs. Ojos de Tango

00 hs. La Juan D´Arienzo

DJ: Carlos “el gordo” Amaya

Dancers: Cecilia Capello y Diego Amorin


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