Festival of Democracy and Life

Rio’s world-famous parades in the sambo drome have begun, with magnificent costumes and floats, rousing songs and sounds. The “Arranco do Engenho de Dentro” samba school kicked things off on Friday evening (local time). She dedicated her rainy parade to Zé Espinguela, the organizer of the first samba school competition in Rio de Janeiro in 1929. The competition was then held in the current location of the Arranco school.

On Sunday and Monday, the top twelve schools perform until the early hours of the morning.

Tens of thousands of people in the stands and millions watching on television in Brazil and around the world usually follow the parades on the big catwalk designed in the 1980s by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

The Rio Carnival is the “biggest party in the world”. The city anticipates revenue of approximately 810 million euros, and the tourism agency Riotur anticipates up to 5.5 million carnival attendees. The hotels had a 91.5 per cent occupancy rate.

Mayor Eduardo Paes officially kicked off this year’s carnival on Friday afternoon (local time) by handing “King Momo” the key to the city. After two years of the pandemic preventing or restricting the festival, Paes, who had also promoted corona vaccinations in preparation for the carnival, said, “Thanks to science, medicine, the public health system, and those who vaccinated, we can celebrate life again by meeting at the Rio Carnival.”

At the height of the 2021 pandemic, Brazil’s healthcare system collapsed. Mayor Paes cancelled the street carnival in the previous two years due to Corona. Following a postponement in April 2022, only the parades in the Sambodrome took place.

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But the carnival is back in full swing. This season, the city administration approved 445 parades of carnival groups, known as blocks. The first official “Blocos,” like the traditional “Carmelitas” in Rio’s bohemian district of Santa Teresa, were already parading through the streets or playing in the squares by the afternoon.
Tens of thousands of “Cariocas,” Rio residents and tourists, got into the carnival spirit last weekend, with musicians and dancers performing on the streets of various parts of the city. It is midsummer in the southern hemisphere, and it is currently boiling. On Friday, the thermometer read 41.8 degrees; the perceived temperature, which varies from the actual due to humidity or wind, was 53.8 degrees.

However, the Rio Carnival is more than just a hot party: on January 8, Mayor Paes declared the “Carnival of Democracy” following the storming of the government district in Brasilia. Paes said on Friday that it is necessary to celebrate democracy because “once again, the Brazilian people and Brazilian institutions have proven to be stronger.” An unwritten rule states that the melodies and lyrics of the sambo drome parades must not be too critical.

During the parades, each samba school transports the audience to a different world, usually where everything is fine. For example, the “Acadêmicos de Vigário Geral” school took many into childhood with the topic “The imagination – factory of joy”. However, there have been political comments in recent years. For example, the winning school “Mangueira” 2020, criticized the Bolsonaro administration.
The “blocos” have always formed a parallel carnival to the strictly regulated parades in the sambo drome, where a jury awards marks in the same way that a figure skater does. They are, however, remarkably organized this year; thanks to the forced break, they had plenty of time to prepare.

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The “Blocos,” on the other hand, have retained a great deal of spontaneity and creativity. Carnival fans exchange information in Whatsapp groups about where a “Bloco” is currently located and which is going next. “We try to go to as many “blocos” as we can,” says carnival goer Samara Curi. “We expected something to change after the pandemic. People would be discouraged as a result. But nothing has changed. That’s fantastic.”

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