Confetti, dancers, music and fantasy - these are the main ingredients that define Rio’s Carnival.
The Rio Carnival is a four day festival which takes place every year forty days before Easter. At its origins, the Carnival was a revolutionary form of slave expression. Now, it has become the expression of appeasement between the social classes; it represents a moment of freedom and release. Nowadays, the Carnival expresses the culture, history, music, and images of Brazil.
The event and the parade which takes place in Rio de Janeiro is the most famous and richest Carnival in Brazil. A million tourists join millions of Rio de Janeiro residents and the whole city shuts down for a wild the Carnival has been first celebrated in 1723, when the immigrants from the Portuguese Islands of Azore and Madeira brought the ‘Entrudo’ spring festival tradition to Brazil. At first, the African-American slaves were celebrating in the streets, throwing with eggs and dirty water, while wealthier families were staying in their homes.
At that time, ‘Entrudo’ was avoided by the wealthy families and threatened by the authorities. ‘Entrudo’ seemed to have all the necessary ingredients for a revolution, in a society based on slave exploitation.
Things started to take a better turn in 1932. Marion Rodriguez Filho, the owner of the first sports newspaper in the world launched a competition of the Carnival, which brought better organization and rules. By the end of the 18th century, the competitions became the main attractions of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. People would not just dress up in costumes but also perform a parade accompanied by an orchestra of strings, drums and other instruments.
The Africans have influenced the Carnival with the introduction of samba music in 1917. Samba is now considered traditional Brazilian music. Samba music at street parades influenced the appearance of samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. The samba schools participate in a pageant for the Samba Parade.
They have to pick up themes, write music and lyrics, and they make costumes and floats and practice all year around to succeed in the Parade. Each samba school represents a neighborhood. Each school has eighty minutes to show its moves and to impress the jury which consists of 40 members. The jury evaluates the costumes, the themes and the songs.
However, despite all the joy the Carnival provides, the party also has a somber tinge. Every year, as the crowds fill the streets of Rio, many people pass out under the summer heat. Annually, the police arrests about 100 partygoers for minor crimes and in 2013 a nightclub fire killed 238 people.
On the Carnival the Rio metro runs 24 hours a day instead of closing at midnight, however, it is unable to handle peak traffic. If you go to the downtown (where the parade takes place) by tube, you have to be careful which station you exit, otherwise you will have to walk even a mile to reach the sector you want in the Sambodromo (a building made especially to guest the samba schools parade). Going by bus can also prove to be a real challenge as many people are drunk and prone to vandalism. There’s always a third option- you can take a cab!
However, do not imagine that this is a safe experience. Many taxi drivers don’t start the meter and you end up paying very much. Whichever means of transport you choose, there will be delays, frustrations, chaos and scrimmage.
In order to prevent vandalism, military police, traffic coordinators and municipal guards have become a usual sight to see during the festival. As the violence grows with every passing year, in 2013 the authorities have put, for the first time, fences around monuments and decorative plants.
One out of four tourists states that the urban sanitation is a negative aspect of the Rio Carnival festivities. The samba parades gather 2.2 million people, packed shoulder to shoulder in 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dancing and singing sound just fine for a festival. But what about drinking? Not only does it lead to violence, but what gets in must get out as well… There were years in which 800 men and women were arrested for public urination. While you could see a beer stand at every 2 or 3 feet, there were only 400 toilets for dozens of blocks, one for every 5,500 reveler. Moreover, if all the revelers used the toilets, they would overflow. As a result, the streets smell of urine weeks after the event.
Each year, the Sambodromo becomes a chaos of spectators, costumed participants, traffic, and logistical nightmares. As the seats are not numbered, the rule is ‘first come first sit’. The tourist section is an exception; it is numbered and has assigned seating. A seat in the tourist sector costs around $ 471. The seats are made of cement, which can reach very high temperatures in the afternoon Brazilian sun.
From an economic point of view, although the Carnival attracted in 2013 about 850,000 visitors, who contributed with $628 million to the state, costs are also very high, as the locals attend the events instead of going to work.
All in all, the Rio Carnival is emblematic for its country. Having both positive and negative aspects, the Carnival is an important social and economical event that brings people together, breaking all social boundaries.