La Melaza

Stories of Love and Drumming.

This project is the outcome of the photographic record of following La Melaza comparsa, from preparation through the course of the Llamadas parade on February 5th, 2009.



  • Maquillaje.
  • Daniela Villamonte | Repique.
  • Bárbara Fernández | Cuerpo de Baile.
  • Lucía Ianandrea | Cuerpo de Baile.
  • Melina Rubiños | Chico.
  • Banderillero.
  • Fernando Paez | Porta Estandarte.
  • Selvi Paez | Cuerpo de Baile.
  • Espejito, espejito...
  • A ver cómo estoy?
  • Tania Bega | cuerpo de baile.
  • Lucía Martínez | Chico.
  • El equipo.
  • Chaca apasionada...
  • La espera.
  • Listas.
  • La formación.
  • La partida.
  • Ximena Bouzo | Repique.
  • Isla de Flores.
  • Vientos y zancos.
  • Aguante La Melaza.
  • Las brujas.
  • Banderillero.
  • El corte.
  • Intensidad.
  • Fuerza!


Year after year, the first Thursday of February marks the beginning of the ‘Llamadas’ (calling) parade, a singular milestone in the long Uruguayan carnival. Hundreds of thousands of people shack up together along the narrow street of Isla de Flores, between Barrio Sur and Palermo, to enjoy the never-ending succession of groups drumming candombe[1]. This vigorous, energetic and peculiar rhythm native of Uruguay does not go unnoticed. The people flare up to the rattling of the drums, an unusual manifestation of the otherwise mellow Uruguayan society.

La Melaza[2] opens a gap in a space otherwise dominated by men, and creates the first comparsa[3] to parade in the Llamadas, with a cuerda (group) of drummers integrated only by women. But even more important, it opens up in this society the possibility for women to partake in an activity so Uruguayan, and yet so foreign to our women. With them a style, a proposal, a way of expression so genuine and so different is born.

This book is a tribute to these women who, by representing the African-descent community in their challenge to execute their freedom and dignity have, as well, challenged the social condition of women in Uruguay. It’s an acknowledgement to those who opened to me the intimacy of their comparsa and provided me with color, joy and hope.

[1] Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

[2] From molasses – thick, dark brown, uncrystallized juice obtained from raw sugar during the refining process.

[3] Comparsa. A full candombe group, or comparsa, is comprised of la cuerda – the group of drummers, las mulatas – a group of female dancers, and some additional characters with their specific dances (La Mama Vieja (“Old Mother”), the matriarch, El Gramillero (“Medicine Man”), Mama Vieja’s husband, responsible for health and well-being and El Escobero or Escobillero (“Stick Holder”), who carried a long magical wooden stick that he uses to create new ways and possibilities for the future.