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Smithsonian Institution Returns to Venezuela

Documenting the popular tradition “Funeral of the Sardine in Naiguatá”

Smithsonian Folkways’ videographer Charles Weber returned to Venezuela to film the “Funeral of a Sardine in Naiguatá,” one of the most celebrated popular traditions during Carnival in the Naiguatá parish, located on Venezuela’s north-central coast.

This is Weber’s second visit to Venezuela after having participated in the production of a new album of the Afro-Venezuelan band Sardinas de Naiguatá. The production will be included in the Smithsonian Folkways discography collection and is part of the annual concert series Venezuelan Sounds hosted by the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C.

Colorful Naiguatá

The “Funeral of the Sardine” is a parody that simulates a funeral touring the streets of the town and ends when a paper-wood sardine is thrown into the sea. The wood sardine is adorned with paint, ribbons and vegetables, which represent the prosperity and abundance expected from the fishing and farming during the coming year.      

Fishermen and fisherwomen of Naiguatá stop fishing for one day to prepare the sardine ceremony and then wear colorful costumes that represent different characters. Men wearing widow costumes who cry with deep mourning, a priest that hears confessions and a devil that incites bad behaviors are some of the characters.

Although the “Funeral of the Sardine” is mainly a tradition that announces the end of the carnival, its origins have religious roots. This tradition also represents vices flourished during the celebrations that must be buried before the beginning of the Lent.

This popular celebration is joined by a drums band that includes voices and metals.       

The name of the group Sardinas de Naiquatá, native of this Venezuelan coastal perish, comes from this tradition.  

Venezuelan Sounds is an initiative promoted by the Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S., Bernardo Álvarez and sponsored by Chevron Corporation. The production of the Sardinas de Naiguatá’s album was also supported by the Center of the Cultural Diversity, the Government of Vargas state, and the Naiguatá Parish Civil Office.   

Government of Vargas state Press Department, Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. Press and Communications Office / February 19, 2010

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