[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or three days each May in the small Colombian town of Chaguaní, everybody is single. In fact, it’s the law.
By mayoral decree, locals and visitors alike must hide their wedding rings, stop holding hands and maybe even book a hotel room with two beds. No committed relationships allowed at the annual Festival del Soltero, which opens its 44th year on Friday.
Obviously it’s all in good fun. And Chaguaní is a family-friendly town so the festival isn’t exactly an invitation to hedonistic abandon — or even to open up a new Tinder profile.
Indeed, lest tourists get the wrong idea, the three-day event kicks off on Friday afternoon with a history lesson and a short church service. From there, things get a bit more lighthearted with the first of several parades through the streets of the town and a big celebration in Chaguaní’s main square.
On Saturday, the day begins with the “despecho” – a broken hearts party – followed by a parade on horseback, dance and cultural performances, and a town-wide celebration.
The location for that party? None other than Chaguaní’s famous Parque de Cupido (Cupid Park). But Cupid won’t legally be permitted to hit his mark for at least another 24 hours.
On Sunday, another church service will be held, this time to celebrate 10 years without a violent death in the town. It’s a poignant commemoration in a region once prone to conflict between guerrilla and paramilitary groups. No longer.
Sunday afternoon brings a “grand carnaval” parade, music, performances and the crowning of “Mr. and Ms. Single,” followed by yet another town-wide dance party.
The festival got its start four decades ago when a group of singles in Chaguaní wanted to celebrate their freedom from attachment. Eventually, the rest of the town’s residents started to join in, and today the festivities are open to anyone and everyone — as long as they’re willing to change their relationship status for 72 hours.
It’s the only festival of its kind in Colombia, and possibly the world, according to Mayor Mauricio Ramírez.
“This is really an important cultural event about integrating the community,” explained Ramírez. “It’s a great time to get to know our town.”
Chaguaní lies in the hills of the Cundinamarca department just 120 kilometers from Bogotá. Buses depart the main Bogotá terminus regularily towards Honda and in less than three hours you are in the central Magdalena. Chaguaní’s sister communities are Viani and San Juan de Río Seco.
The town is famous for its wax palm (palma de cera, Colombia’s national tree) groves, temperate climate, typical dish of fiambre — meat, rice, plantain and other ingredients wrapped in banana leaves — and the general hospitality of its residents.
Of course the Festival del Soltero might not be the ideal couples getaway. Then again, a chance to party like a single all over again might be just what Cupid ordered.