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Photo Essay: The Intimacy of ‘Candombe’

Take an intimate look at a traditional comparsa from Montevideo.

By | [email protected] | October 3, 2018 8:30am

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All photos were taken by Lautaro Sourigues. You can see more of his work on Instagram.

If you are among those that think Uruguay is essentially just another Argentine province, you are dead wrong. Argentina doesn’t have Candombe.

Uruguay, and Montevideo in particular, breathes Candombe. Candombe is many things: a rhythm, a cultural expression, a neighborhood rite, a family ceremony, and a key festivity at Carnaval every February. What you may not know is that Candombe is also an homage to Uruguayan’s African roots from the times of slavery.

As many other Carnaval festivities around the world, the tradition turned the relationship between oppressor and oppressed on its head. The slaves would mock their masters, wearing their clothes and exacerbating their opulence. In modern times, it has become an expression of freedom and joy for the Uruguayan people, and a tradition that pierces through social classes and races: the rich businessman drums and dances side by side with the construction worker. No one is barred from Candombe, making it a fundamental component of Uruguayan identity.

We were invited into the intimacy of a rehearsal at the Agguanile Comparsa. A “comparsa” is the name of a Candombe group, and the Agguanile Comparsa represents the most beautiful aspects of this wonderful tradition: family, barrio, joy, and freedom.

Follow along with us on our vuelta around the neighborhood.