TRAVEL AND EXPLORE
The Rio De Janeiro Carnival, Brazil
The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is a world biggest party in the world. The Parade of Carnaval Samba School at Rio’s Sambódromo is something everybody has to experience at least once in life. The event is broadcast live to several countries, and all Brazilian states. Watching on TV is cool, but not half as much fun as being there. You have to mingle with the crowd, sweat, maybe even march with a samba school.
Unlike Street Carnival the Samba Parade is not free. Face value of tickets are not that high, but scalpers mark them up without mercy. Twelve special group schools march on Carnival Sunday and Monday, six each night.
The parade starts at 9 p.m. and goes on until sunlight the next day, around 6-7 a.m. This samba marathon is more than a show - it’s also a fierce competition. A school will be downgraded from special to access group, and vice-versa. With so many traditional samba schools, now there are big names also in access group A.
Early 20th Century
The parade of floats (bands) in today’s Carnival celebration began as an event called Corso in 1907. At that time, it was a parade of cars, a relatively new invention at the time, through the the city. Parade watchers brought streamers and confetti to throw. Another portion of the modern Carnival is the Ranchos Carnavalescos, which began in 1872 but became popular in 1911. In a Ranchos Carnavalescos, participants dressed up in costumes and performed during the parade accompanied by music played by musicians. Their popularity grew as each Ranchos Carnvalesco competed with the others to become more elaborate and entertaining. They are now one of the most popular parts of Carnival. The only time the parades were halted was during WWII, but they resumed in 1947
The carnival can trace its roots back to an ancient Greek festival held each spring to honor Dionysus, the god of wine. The Romans adopted the festival to honor two of their gods, Bacchanalia and Saturnalia. During the Roman festival, slaves and masters would exchange clothes and spend the day in drunken revelry. The Catholic Church later modified the festival as a celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. It grew into a last hurrah before Lent with its 40 days of trying to improve oneself through prayer and sacrifice.
Rio de Janeiro’s celebration of carnival can be traced back to 1723, according to Ipanema.com. It came to Brazil along with Portuguese immigrants who called it the Entrudo. Entrudo was essentially a giant water fight with people setting out to soak others with water and limes. No one, even royalty, was immune from being drenched. It was eventually outlawed because the authorities didn’t like to see so many people losing control.
Was a contribution of a Portuguese shoemaker named José Nogueira de Azevedo, in the mid XIX century. On Carnival Mondays he would march in the streets with his friends playing drums, tambourines, pans, and whistles. Everybody was welcome to join the fun.Evolving
Grandes Sociedades or Great Societies
Was a more organized parade that debuted in 1855, with the presence of the Emperor himself. A group of eighty aristocrats in masks paraded with luxury costumes, music, and flowers. It was a big success. Democráticos, Fenianos and Tenentes do Diabo were the three most well-known groups.
It all started in the end of the XIX Century in what was then known as Little Africa (Pequena Africa), the residence of the tias baianas. These were ladies who came from Bahia, and made a living selling food delicacies around town in their typical white dresses with big round skirts. They were also the priestesses of Candomble, and had a great influence in the community.
Tia Ciata may have been the most famous of these tias. Born Hilaria Batista de Almeida in the region of Bahia known as Reconcavo Baiano around 1854, she first lived near Campo de Santana.
What is a Samba School?
A Samba School is basically an association of people from the same neighborhood. They get together on a regular basis for samba nights and rehearsals (ensaios) at their samba court (quadra).
It is usually a working class community (or favela) in most cases located in a suburban area. Samba schools provide invaluable jobs to the community, the production of floats and costumes is big business. It is partly subsidized by the State, and partly paid by private enterprises that sponsor the parade.
Samba Schools may take to the Parade anything from 3,000 to 5,000 members, and from 6 to 8 floats. They try to illustrate and give life to the theme chosen. All costumes and floats are original, made from scratch. It as a tropical opera, or rather, a collection of several operas happening on a single night.
A Home for a Samba Parade: The Sambodromo
The Sambodromo is the “stadium” of samba. It consists of the Parading Avenue (the samba runway) and several independent concrete structures for the spectators (the bleachers) both sides along the Parading Avenue.
The Sambodromo was designed by Brazil’s world-famous architect, the modernist Oscar Niemeyer. It was purpose-built for the Samba Parade and was inaugurated in 1984.
Made of concrete, it seems a bit dated for today’s post-modern eyes. It feels derelict if not ugly, surrounded only by favelas during the year, when it serves smaller cultural events.
However, it is transformed and comes to life during Carnival. It becomes truly magnificent and overpowering, lit up with special effects on Samba Parade nights, filled with thousands of cheering spectators and surrounded by many other thousands who could not get in.
Inside the Sambodromo is considered to be the safest place in South America, on Samba Parade days. There is a very high concentration of international celebrities, politicians and royalties among the crowd.
They may try to organize it, glamorize it, televise it, even industrialize it, but Carnival is something that comes deep from the fun-loving Carioca soul. It does not depend on any authority or sponsor to happen. Carnival in the streets is a living proof of this love. It’s free, spontaneous, and everybody’s welcome to participate!