Once again I’m writing about Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. Yes, it’s called Carnaval and not Carnival. The latter is a place with merry-go-rounds, Ferris-wheels and cheesy games to win your dearest a teddy bear. CarnAval is the annual party that takes place the same week as Mardi Grass. It starts on Saturday – to be honest, Friday night – and goes on until fat Wednesday.
In Rio there are mainly two Carnavals going on. One is worldwide known, where samba schools compete with their parades at Sambodromo (an Oscar Niemeyer designed arena). The main league of schools march around the arena on Sunday and Monday evenings during Carnaval. During the parades, judges evaluate the schools in different criteria from costumes to their song. The results come out on Wednesday when the winner is announced. Thousands of people go to Sambodromo to cheer for their favorite school (as they would for a sports team).
The other (and my personal favorite) kind of Carnaval that goes on in Rio is the “street Carnaval”. The so-called Blocs are everywhere. During this extended weekend there are over 300 blocs. Basically, a bloc starts with a group of people that have something in common. They work together, go to the same bar or they are friends and invite friends of friends. They gather up for rehearsals and they play traditional bloc songs called “marchinhas” (very old ones from the 1920’s and 30’s) which literally translates to little marches, but they also play pop songs adapted as marchinhas.
Every year new blocs are created and they gather more and more people. Bola Preta is one of the more traditional ones and has a record-breaking crowed of 2.5 million people!!!! It’s not like this in all of the blocs. Most manage to gather a couple of thousand. Some are very creative like Desliga da Justiça which has all their members dressed as super-heroes and attracts a kid-friendly crowed. Bloco Cru only plays rock. Sargento Pimenta plays Beatles songs as marchinhas (you can find some videos in YouTube). Carmelitas, another traditional one, has a lot of people dressed as nuns. And so it goes, people in all sorts of costumes walking the streets of Rio jumping from bloc to bloc.
So if you, my dear reader, decide to come to Rio. Don’t spend all your time at Sambodromo. Put on a costume (as simple as it may be) and go on to a bloc to have some fun. And don’t forget the sun block, especially if you’re costume has a mask!
Check out my shots of Carnaval below and comment below with your thoughts.