efe-epaBarranquilla, Colombia

The novel coronavirus, the escape of former Colombian congresswoman Aída Merlano, a troupe with Pope Francis and "Star Wars" Stormtroopers dancing champeta were the most outstanding scenes Saturday at the Baranquilla carnival.

The first day of Colombia’s most important popular festivals in hosted the traditional Battle of Flowers, the parade of King Momo and the Carnival of 44, in which thousands of people enjoyed floats, folk groups and parades with traditional costumes, inspired by current events

In the city’s 40th Street, for example, people disguised as "tourists" were chased by nurses so they wouldn’t approach the public, alluding to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Carnival’s start, due to end Tuesday, also saw a rendition of Pope Francis who, from his popemobile and accompanied by more than 50 nuns dancing tropical music, drew the laughter of thousands who lined the sides of the "Cumbiodromo," where the event took place.

Carnival Queen Isabella Chams, popular queens, models, actresses and singers were applauded as they rode floats with suggestive names such as "Marimonda City," "Picotera Route," "Macchina Venice," "Flow Puloy," " Let go Gorilla," "Real Poetry" and" La Pachanguera."

On 44th Street, where an alternate parade is held, the most striking was the parody of the escape of former Congresswoman Aida Merlano, in which an actress threw herself off a stage to be picked up by a motorcyclist imitating Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Merlano, sentenced in Colombia to 15 years in prison for electoral corruption, escaped last October taking advantage of an appointment at a dental office in the capital Bogota and was recaptured Jan. 27 in Venezuela.

In the middle of the carnival, a troupe of the Stormtroopers led by a Darth Vader imitator with a big pot belly, drawing the laughter of those on the curbs.

Finally, on 17th Street, in the parade of King Momo, traditional rhythms and costumes of superheroes and characters showed a sea of creativity and colorful designs.

Declared by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” masterpiece, the yearly Barranquilla Carnival involves local and visiting crowds and performers of about 2.5 million people. EFE-EPA