In the traditional neighborhood of Barrio Abajo, the place where the most known festival in Colombia was born, you’ll find Carnaval House. This colonial-style building was built in 1929 and nowadays is where the organization, Carnaval S.A., runs its operations.
This iconic building belongs to the Caridi Mitrani family and for over 25 years has been the center of operations for everything to do with the parades. Inside, besides all the offices, there’s a special area which has been transformed into a museum of Barranquilla’s most important event. The Salon “Elsa Caridi” is an interactive space where tourists who come to Barranquilla during the off season can still experience a bit of Carnaval and, of course, learn about the origins and history of all the components of this iconic event.
The first part of the museum, “El Viaje”, is a tour through the history, the symbology and the meaning that Carnaval has for the city and its people. They do a great job explaining the origins of the costumes and the masks, along with all the curious stories on how each typical “disfraz” was born and became popular.
The heart of the party is always in the music and in this area of the museum, you’ll experience the rhythms and the dances that make this Carnaval so different from others around the world. Jesús Dominguez, a member of the Center of Historical Recompilations of the “Casa del Carnaval”, told us that this is his favorite part of the tour. “I like the game with the interactive panels where you can play the instruments of our folkloric music,” he said. “If you pay attention, you’ll be able to choose the right ones to make the music sound the way it should, it’s so much fun.”
The last part of the museum is the one dedicated to the cultural manifestations of the people. Here they show the true identity of the typical Barranquillero, with his gastronomy, his music beyond the carnival and his crafts.
The hall is one of the projects that Barranquilla’s Carnival Foundation manages in order to keep all the traditions of this party alive. In fact, it was declared a human patrimony in 2003 by UNESCO. The organization would like the museum to be self-sustaining, but since the idea is not to charge high fees for people to come, their main funding comes from the economic help of private companies that sponsor the “Elsa Caridi” by taking care of the maintenance and paying the guides.