Carnival, or Carnaval in Portuguese, is like nothing else I have ever experienced. In Brazil, it is one, if not the, biggest holiday. Everything shuts down completely and even ATM’s run out of money. Those who love it all hit the streets to participate in the blocos, and those, like my host family, who don’t stay inside, shut the windows, and enjoy the time off from work.
The blocos in Rio are a major part of Carnaval. Essentially, they are street parties in which thousands of people gather to celebrate and follow the bandas, or Samba bands. These bandas can be live or taped and typically play Samba music from a float as people sing along, dance, and cheer around them. One of the famous blocos in which I participated was called Simpatia É Quase Amor. According to Riotur, over 150,000 foliões, or Carnaval goers, participated in this bloco. Following typical Carnaval tradition, people were dressed in all sorts of costumes and outfits. The excitement was amazing! It’s impossible to understand completely the happiness and energy that filled the street. My friends and I followed the banda for over an hour as we danced and attempted to sing along to the lyrics written on a pamphlet. Everywhere you looked you saw smiling faces and partying. After blocos officially end, people remain in the streets and head to the next one! With over 450 blocos in Rio during the week Carnaval, you didn’t have to go far to find another. At all hours of the day there are multiple blocos in different parts of the city.
On Monday, we went to see the famous desfiles or parades where all the best Samba schools compete during Carnaval. Each samba school presents a theme and tells a story through their parade. Six Samba schools performed that night and impressed the judges with their Samba technique, floats, costumes, and varying themes ranging from homages to the famous Brazilians Ayrton Senna (Formula 1 racer) and Zico (Arthur Antunes Coimbra, Flamengo soccer player) to a tribute to our childhood days. Everything was incredibly elaborate. I have never seen anything like it! The Macy’s Day Parade cannot even compare with this show. We watched in amazement from the start at 9pm until finish around 6am. In preparation, we arrived early to get good seats and brought plenty of food and drinks to last us the eleven hours.
If you are interested in more of my Carnaval pictures, visit my Flickr page here. It was difficult for my basic point-and-shoot camera to capture it all, but I tried. Nothing measures up to being there in person!
After a week of Carnaval, I am ready to return to class work today! I took advantage of enjoying Carnaval every day, and absolutely loved it; however, this past week I’ve spent a lot more money than expected (although worth it) and gained at least two pounds (also worth it). With that being said, I am ready to return to my regular routine. This week couldn’t go on forever!
Until the next time! Beijos