“The party was off to a raucous start. A chorus of whoops and yelps from the crowd followed a loud “Buenas noches!” from the M.C. A band played traditional Colombian music. Liberal pourings of rum and Cokes helped lubricate the festivities.
The party, held on a drizzly Friday night, was bouncing — literally. “I’ve got to be careful when the potholes hit,” said Raul Alphavitae, 28, one of the musicians with the band, Aires del Folklor.
Mr. Alphavitae’s observation gives a hint of what made this night on the town a little different: The party was held on wheels, in an old yellow school bus decked out in yellow, red and blue paint. “We’re like musical ninjas — we have to stay on balance while everything is bouncing around,” Mr. Alphavitae said.
As New York City’s Colombian population has ballooned, one custom that has been transplanted is the use of rustic buses, or chivas as they are called in Spanish, for parties.
“By the time the bus crosses the bridge, everybody is friends,” said Sorady Cortes, 28, a physical therapist out with some girlfriends, as she waited for the chiva to start its engine in Queens and head west over the Queensboro Bridge and into Midtown Manhattan. “They have a bar, and that helps.”
In the chiva, partygoers seeking a more authentic taste of Colombia poured aguardiente, an anise-flavored liquor, from a wineskin. Some of the roughly 30 people on the tour donned traditional Colombian straw hats called sombreros vueltiaos, and shook maracas and tambourines to get the party started. The M.C. worked an iPod full of cumbia, salsa and reggaetón favorites while the band took a break.”
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In Colombia, depending on the city, Chivas are either used as traditional transportation or as party buses. On the Carribean coast, it seems they are used more for parties on wheels.