The African American community of Uruguay is very small; they live mostly in the Palermo neighborhood of Montevideo. Candombe, a Uruguayan music and dance style that originated with African slaves, remains very popular with them. For this story, I spent a week with a group of candombe drummers, learning about their rituals.
Candombe is most often played in February during Uruguay’s Carnival, and takes the form of a marching contest. After an introduction of conversing and warming up their drum skins on streetside paper fires, a leader sets (and then increases) the rhythm and pace that all other drummers must follow. It’s a status thing—who joins the march and who stays on the sidelines. Sometimes when young or inexperienced drummers join in, their hands bleed from the sustained pounding. This is, of course, a badge of honor.