It was Rio's first carnival since the pandemic

It was Rio’s first carnival since the pandemic

RIO DE JANEIRO.- And one day he came back. After two years of cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the emblematic Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro lit up yesterday with the carnival, amidst a burst of euphoria and samba.

Some 70,000 vibrant people accompany the dazzling floats and armies of dancers who squirm and sing their hearts out in the open-air enclosure, the very one that served as a vaccination center during the pandemic.

Princesses with feathers and wings, kings and queens with spinning crowns, flowers and walking suns with colors so bright they lit up the night… the parades of the traditional samba “escolas” have returned in all their glory after a long wait of more than two years.

A member of the Sao Clemente samba school performs during the first night of the Rio Carnival parade at the Marqués de Sapucai sambadrome in Rio de JaneiroAFP Agency – AFP

“It seems that I am finally reborn, during the pandemic I felt very sad, I was getting sick, because I love carnival”, The experienced Tia Cléa, 70, who has half a century of parades next to the Viradouro school, told AFP.

Current champion of the contest, Viradouro recalled the carnival of 1919, when samba schools did not yet exist, but cariocas poured into the streets in droves to celebrate the end of the so-called Spanish flu, disguised as pierrots, columbines or the “black plague”.

Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades at the Sambadrome
Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades at the Sambadrome AFP Agency – AFP

“I took off my jugular in an enveloping atmosphere, gently joined my lips and kissed you in endless joy… carnival, I love you!” chanted euphorically the participants, including Silvio Guimaraes, 56, dressed in an all-black suit. , with a bird’s beak and a doctor’s kit.

An artist from the Beija Flor samba school parades during Carnival celebrations
An artist from the Beija Flor samba school parades during Carnival celebrations ap-ap

“We represent a carnival dance after a pandemic…in 1919. Today the most important thing is that we are there, many people would like and could not,” he said, excited . With a health crisis exacerbated by vaccination delays, more than 660,000 people have died from Covid in Brazil, a number surpassed only by the United States.

A member of the Salgueiro samba school performs during the first night of the Rio Carnival parade at the Sambadrome
A member of the Salgueiro samba school performs during the first night of the Rio Carnival parade at the Sambadrome AFP Agency – AFP

It was “two years of great darkness in the world, each seeking each other”. Tonight “we have the opportunity to show that we are happy even with all the problems,” said 45-year-old Latino Suarez. “Brazil without carnival is not Brazil”, sentenced.

Members of the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school dance during the carnival parade on Friday, April 22, 2022.
Members of the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school dance during the carnival parade on Friday, April 22, 2022.

the 12 samba ‘escolas’ competing at the Sambadrome for two nights, they each tell their “enredo”, a story rich in historical and cultural references that has been repeated for months. And this year the fight against racism, very present in the world of samba, of popular origin and rooted in the favelas, has come back in force.

Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades
Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades AFP Agency – AFP

the tangle “Endurance” of the Salgueiro school is inspired by the anti-racism protests that took place after the death of the American George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. The floats were decorated with references to Afro-Brazilian religions and the giant fists invited the “Resistance”. An obelisk bearing the inscription “Racism” was pulled down, drawing applause from the audience.

In the stands, the occasional banner was unfurled that read Fora Bolsonaro in reference to the far-right president, who will seek re-election in October.

Members of the Sao Clemente Samba School perform during the first night of the Rio Carnival Parade
Members of the Sao Clemente Samba School perform during the first night of the Rio Carnival ParadeAFP Agency – AFP

“With the government of Jair Bolsonaro, racism is more humiliating because it comes from abovesaid Claudia Nascimento, a 43-year-old cashier from Salgueiro.

Minor bugs and crashes have not gone unnoticed either. In the case of Viradouro, one of the principal dancers lost a shoe at the worst moment: it was thrown in the middle of the podium while the jury was evaluating the performance of its owner.

Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades
Members of the Salguero Samba School perform on the first night of the Carnival parades AFP Agency – AFP

This year, these associations with decades of history have recovered part of the public funding that the previous mayor of Rio, the evangelical Marcelo Crivella (2017-2020), cut by rejecting this popular celebration.

But the private sector funds most of the parades, whose floats and costumes cost several hundred thousand dollars.

A member of the Beija Flor samba school performs during the first night of the Rio Carnival Parade
A member of the Beija Flor samba school performs during the first night of the Rio Carnival Parade AFP Agency – AFP

Safety, whose failures have led to several accidents in the past, is also in the spotlight, after An 11-year-old girl died on Friday after being run over Wednesday evening by a tank at the exit of the Sambadrome.

The town hall has not authorized this year the street parades which are normally organized in parallel and plunge the “Cidade Maravilhosa” into musical ecstasy, but some smaller “blocos” have carried out their parades, refusing to postpone the party one more minute.

The carnival also brought relief to economic sectors affected by the pandemic, such as the hotel industry, with a occupancy around 78%, but with a drop in foreigners (14% attendance, compared to 23% in 2020).

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