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Carla Celia Martí­nez-Aparicio

COLOMBIA - Tourism

Fun for all, all for fun

Director, Carnival of Barranquilla


Carla Celia Martí­nez-Aparicio graduated in design and architecture from la Universidad Autónoma del Caribe and has a degree in cultural administration from Universidad del Atlántico. She is a member of several boards including the Museum of Modern Art, Telecaribe, and the Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce. Between 2006- 2007, she was the secretary of culture. She has been the head of Fundación Carnaval since 2010.

Apart from being the soul of the city, the Carnival of Barranquilla plays an instrumental role in the development of parks and public spaces as well as the promotion of local employment.

The Carnival of Barranquilla was recognized by UNESCO 17 years ago. What has been the role of the company in putting this event and the city on the global map?
The carnival is part of the soul of our local community. About 20 years ago, we realized just how special and unique our carnival was and started working on a dossier for UNESCO. The cultural and material heritage was just appearing because the architectural heritage has always existed. In November 2003, the festival was proclaimed an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Once Barranquilla received that title, the carnival put the city on the global map. The city’s exponential growth has also helped promote Barranquilla to the world, and we have been an important element of this brand because ours is the second-largest carnival in the world. For us, the most important thing is the growth of the city. We contribute via the development of parks and public spaces as well as the promotion of local employment and the orange economy. The city and carnival have grown hand in hand, and we welcome our role as ambassadors of Colombia.

What other activities does the carnival promote throughout the year?
We are a public-private organization—48% public and the rest private—that also provides consulting services to other local and international events organized by the public and private sectors. Recently, we helped organize the Cartagena Independence Parades as well as the Buenos Aires Carnival. We have 20 full-time employees, and, five months prior to the carnival, we hire more than 7,000 new direct employees and create up to 40,000 indirect jobs. In the next few months, we will inaugurate the interactive carnival museum, which has attracted a great deal of interest from the people of Barranquilla as well as the tourism sector.

What is the role of Fundación Carnaval?
We have the foundation and the Carnival SAS. The donations go through the foundation, and the museum is managed by the foundation. The foundation works on social and sustainability programs and manages our editorial line that works on books, magazines, and brochures. The SAS, on the other hand, manages everything for the carnival, from programming to operations.

The carnival queen will participate in the New York Latin Fashion Week. How important is participation in these international events?
The diffusion of the Barranquilla carnival is extremely important, and these events multiply our audience exponentially. That leads to more tourism, sustainability, and consumption. Everything is linked. Sending the carnival queen to the New York Latin Fashion Week represents a great moment for us and all the Latin American communities in the US.

What is the importance of the carnival’s alliances with private companies?
The carnival generates COP29 billion in revenue annually. Of that, 40% comes from private sponsorships, 50% comes from the box office and events, and the final 10% comes from the district mayor’s office and the Ministry of Culture, among others. That is the importance of the private sector. As such, we have to adhere to advertising regulations and UNESCO sponsorship guidelines. The importance of the carnival to the city is so tangible that many companies feel a commitment and social responsibility to support it.

How has Barranquilla become the cultural center of the Caribbean region of Colombia, and what will make the 2020 carnival more impressive than that of 2019?
Barranquilla is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the Caribbean region. The carnival will continue to grow but it has to maintain the tradition and remain sustainable. The world is finally realizing that events like these lead to social development, tourism, and employment. Indeed, our goal is for each year to be better than the last. We try to continuously innovate and think out of the box. The 2020 carnival will be better because it will start in the peak season around December, showcasing our cultural variety to UNESCO delegates. Equally important, the museum will be open by then.



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