Carnival in Mindelo
Carnival is probably the most important celebration in Cape Verde. In a country where culture, dance and music are a big part of the people's lives, it's no surprise that the week of Carnival means so much.
The city of Mindelo hosts the biggest and best Carnival celebration of the country. For one week the entire city seems to be evolving around the cultural celebration. The Carnival groups, different organizations, school kids and even the school teachers hit the streets to show the public their parade and dancing skills.
But Carnival in Mindelo is not just limited to a week. It actually starts as soon as New Year's Eve is over. Each Sunday The Mandingas of Ribeira Bote celebrate the coming of Carnival in the streets of Mindelo.
Ribeira Bote neighborhood
Ribeira Bote is a neighborhood located 10 minutes outside Mindelo's city centre. It's known for a rich history and the important role it has on the island of São Vicente. At the same time it has a bad reputation, dealing with issues like drugs and alcohol.
The neighborhood of Ribeira Bote is known for the 'revolutions' it has sparked. Capitan Ambrosio was a man from the neighborhood who came up for the rights of the poor during one of São Vicente's dry spells in the early 1900's. And of course there is the night of the 23rd of September back in the 70's.
The MornaJazz organization hosts a yearly festival in september celebrating the revolution of the neighborhood against the Portugese army in 1974. A group of men fought to defend Ribeira Bote.
This happening led to the neighborhood being called 'Zona Libertada' (Free Neighborhood).
Dancing with The Mandingas
On the Sunday's when The Mandingas of Ribeira Bote will hit the street you can just feel the energy in Ilha d'Madeira. The team starts of by putting some music on while they prepare for the parade. The entire body is greased in with oil and tar, the 'skirts' come out of the closet and so do the weapons. Transforming them into Mandinga warriors, as a homage to the Mandinka people of Senegal and Gambia (among others).
The percussion band gathers and starts to warm up.
The streets of Ilha d'Madeira quickly fill up with people who want to follow The Mandingas from start to finish, as 'the warriors' create a unique, fun and chaotic carnival atmosphere. If you are not used to parading behind The Mandingas, it's best to be all the way at the back, or on the sidelines watching and doing a little dance. Things can get crazy!
Usually The Mandingas have permission to parade from the neighborhood of Ribeira Bote/Ilha d'Madeira all the way to the city centre and from 'Morada' back to the neighborhood again. Since the parade stops traffic across Mindelo there are days when The Mandingas are restricted to a few neighborhoods of the city.
The Sunday after carnival is another day that's all about The Mandingas of Ribeira Bote. Thousands of people gather to join them in a big parade that is called the 'funeral of carnival'.
This closing Carnival parade also has a big truck with a band playing on top, giving the enormous crowd a last taste of the another incredible celebration...
Carnival 2018 will happen on Tuesday the 13th of Febuary. Mindelocaboverde.com offers a special Carnival package with accommodation, transfer, and excursion(s).