Craft Gin Club members enjoyed a treasure trove of goodies from all over South America this January, including Purely Wild Garlic Plantain Chips from Ecuador, 1724 Tonic Water from Peru and, of course, La República Amazónica Gin from Bolivia. Let’s take a journey around this beautiful continent, and see how it’s done when it comes to celebration!
Buenos Aires Tango Festival
Every August, Buenos Aires hosts the world’s biggest tango extravaganza. The whole city seems to reverberate with the rhythms of this dance of passion. While it only takes two to tango, 400,000 guests turn up for the film screenings, book readings and city tours centred on the sensual dance. Beginners enjoy free classes. For the more advanced bunch, there is a special database to find your ideal dance partner. The festivities culminate in the main event, the Tango Mundial, where 400 world-class dancers compete.
However, it’s only the last leg of the world-wide tango tournament that happens in Argentina in August. The British competitors are chosen at the UK Tango Festival in April. If you love watching the tango, head down to London for this electrifying event. Watch (or even compete in!?) the fierce competition, dance for the fun of it and have a drink at the after parties. If you can’t snag a ticket, why not put on your dancing shoes and find a nearby tango class?
Day of the Dead
This festival may inspire visions of Mexican sugar skulls in your mind’s eye. However, this tradition has been alive and well in all of South America for over 3,000 years. On the 2nd of November, colourful vigils and parties happen all over the continent. Death is celebrated as a natural part of life, not something spooky or morbid. In cemeteries, churches and squares, South Americans commemorate the dead with candles, prayers, picnics and pop-up parades. Each region flavours the festival with unique customs. For example, in Ecuador elegant bouquets of Lilies of the Incas are placed at graves, while in Bolivia bread is baked in the shape of angels.
In Britain, death is often considered taboo – a part of life off-limits in discussion. The annual To Absent Friends Festival, held across Scotland during the first week of November, aims to combat our squeamishness. The storytelling, messages on the Wall of Remembrance and A photography competition echo the South American tradition of celebrating our dead loved ones.
In early September near Peru’s coast, the most significant food festival in South America takes place. The street food is unlike any other. The 400,000 visitors tuck into traditional dishes including ceviche and picarones. The market abounds with the freshest of ingredients, from tropical fruit and veg to seafood.
If you’re feeling peckish but Peru is too far afield, why not cook up your own South American feast. Flick through the magazine and discover tasty recipes for food and drink alike!
Each year, before Lent, Re de Janeiro hosts the biggest, glitziest carnival on the planet. Attracting over two million festival-goers, the city explodes into a mixture of parade floats, sequinned costumes, balls, street parties and above all, Samba! This year, March 2nd is when the revelry begins.
Is your heart set on a massive party? Britain’s Carnaval del Pueblo, held in London in the first week of August, is the largest Latin Festival in Europe. Drawing together the wider community with a fiesta, the aim of the celebration is to promote social inclusion. South American street food and crafts accompany the parade of floats, dancers and musicians.