One of the first signs you’ll see of the approach of Carnaval in Sucre is likely to be an unexplained patch of water on an otherwise dry road. If you’re not careful, this may well be followed by a water balloon to the back of the head. Welcome to Sucre’s all-encompassing, city-wide pre-carnaval water fight!
The weeks leading up to Carnaval weekend see an increasingly escalating level of water “play”, as they call it here, culminating in nothing short of full-scale water wars with thousands of liters of water being dumped on the unsuspecting from all angles. Every park, plaza and street becomes the setting for countless individual battles as everyone aims to soak everyone else while trying in vain to avoid getting wet themselves. The epicenter is, of course, the main square Plaza 25 de Mayo.
The origins of the water fight goes back over a hundred years to a time when eggs were turned into water filled projectiles and hurled violently at anyone and everyone. A period of increasing wealth and sophistication in the early 1900’s saw the eggs filled instead with scented water and gently tossed at prospective partners. Nowadays the eggs remain (sometimes scented, sometimes not), but have been augmented with water balloons, super-soakers and silly-string.
Hand-held water weaponry is not the only threat. A popular trick is to dump buckets of water from the overhead balconies which line every street onto the heads of innocent passers-by, immediately drenching them. What’s more many of Sucre’s houses have hidden roof-tops which make for perfect attack spots, hidden from view of the street. Even if you can somehow avoid your fellow pedestrians and the overhead threat, another remains: drive-by soakings, where children and adults alike will pick you off with water pistols and water bombs as they pass by you in their cars.
The height of the water battle is reached during the main Carnaval dates, when it’s essentially impossible to venture outside without getting wet. At this point you are left with essentially 3 options: 1) Resign yourself to getting soaked, 2) Buy a water-proof poncho from one of the many street vendors but end up pretty soaked anyway, and/or 3) Buy pre-filled water-bombs from the same street vendors and join in the fun!
The water fights, and Carnaval, finally comes to an end with the beginning of Lent.