Mil Tambores (Suenan los Tambores!)

Carnaval de los Mil Tambores is an annual festival during the first or second weekend of October in Valparaíso. Body paint, splashing beer, and hundreds of drums all beating out a different rhythm characterize the event. It’s fun, it’s frantic, and it’s certainly “alternative.”

 Cuerpos Pintados (photo from Mil Tambores site)
Cuerpos Pintados (photo from Mil Tambores site)

But why do so many people lug their cajons, pandeiros, and djembes to the beach fronts and public parks in Valparaíso? Granted, the spontaneous circles and energetic rhythms that float around the bases of the city’s hills are fun by themselves, but there is a further underlying motivation.

There’s a drive to create and to have that creativity feed off itself and multiply. This year’s slogan is Para Recuperarlo Todo, or To Recover Everything. This creative frenzy, expressed through the costumes, the body painting, and the drums, erupts through the streets of Valparaíso, splashing even more color and energy into the already vibrant city. It seems the theme of the program is to prove Valparaíso’s definite place atop Chile’s cultural hierarchy. It was a reaffirmation of their UNESCO World Heritage City title.

 Photo by Evan Bromfield
Photo by Evan Bromfield

The creativity manifested itself over three days of workshops, parades, and general merry-making. It was a celebration of the beauty in the world; whether it’s the ocean’s lullaby of crashing surf on a sunny afternoon or the bustling city in the background.

There are as many ways to take part in the festival as there are people going. Some follow the regular schedule of events, mix in a famous Valpo 'chorillana', and end up at the club sponsored party at the end of the night. Others dwindle the day away on the beach, passing brews, rhythms, and channeling the mutually felt creativity at a more personal and expressive level. Every kind of performer fills the city. One can find anything from traditional cueca dancers to kids juggling fire, so there is never a shortage of eye candy.

The best part is how seamlessly the festival integrates into the already eccentric culture. It’s hard to tell what is part of the festival and what is just local flavor, making the experience altogether more comprehensive.

Mil Tambores began in 1999 as a reaction to the lack of venues for free, artistic expression led by common people. They're not famous or established artists; Mil Tambores is the artistic energy inside of everyone. If you want to get your own energy ready to release for next year, stay up to date on the Mil Tambores Facebook or on their website

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