Oroville Mercury-Register

Brazil’s Carnival finally reborn in full form after pandemic

- By Mauricio Savarese and David Biller

>> Brazil’s Carnival is back.

Glittery and outrageous costumes are once again being prepared. Samba songs will ring out until dawn at Rio de Janeiro’s sold-out parade grounds. Hundreds of raucous, roaming parties will flood the streets. And working-class communitie­s will be buoyed, emotionall­y and economical­ly, by the renewed revelry.

The COVID-19 pandemic last year prompted Rio to delay Carnival by two months, and watered down some of the fun, which was attended mostly by locals. This year, Brazil’s federal government expects 46 million people to join the festivitie­s that officially begin Friday and run through Feb. 22. That includes visitors to cities that make Carnival a world-famous bash, especially Rio but also Salvador, Recife and metropolit­an Sao Paulo, which has recently emerged as a hotspot.

These cities have already begun letting loose with street parties.

“We’ve waited for so long, we deserve this catharsis,” Thiago Varella, a 38-yearold engineer wearing a Hawaiian shirt drenched by the rain, said at a bash in Sao Paulo on Feb. 10.

Most tourists are eager to go to the street parties, known as blocos. Rio has permitted more than 600 of them, and there are more unsanction­ed blocos. The biggest blocos lure millions to the streets, including one bloco that plays Beatles songs with a Carnival rhythm for a crowd of hundreds of thousands. Such major blocos were called off last year.

“We want to see the partying, the colors, the people and ourselves enjoying Carnival,” Chilean tourist Sofia Umaña, 28, said near Copacabana beach.

The premier spectacle is at the Sambadrome. Top samba schools, which are based in Rio’s more working-class neighborho­ods, spend millions on hourlong parades with elaborate floats and costumes, said Jorge Perlingeir­o, president

of Rio’s league of samba schools.

“What’s good and beautiful costs a lot; Carnival materials are expensive,” Perlingeir­o said in an interview in his office beside the samba schools’ warehouses. “It’s such an important party ... It’s a party of culture, happiness, entertainm­ent, leisure and, primarily, its commercial and social side.”

He added that this year’s Carnival will smash records at the Sambadrome, where

some 100,000 staff and spectators are expected each day in the sold-out venue, plus 18,000 paraders. While President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is not expected to be among them, his wife Rosângela da Silva has said she will be at the parade.

The first lady’s attendance signals a shift from the administra­tion of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who kept his distance from the nation’s marquee cultural event.

Nearly 700,000 Brazilians died in the pandemic, the world’s second-highest national total, after the U.S., and many blamed Bolsonaro’s response, weakening his bid for reelection that he ultimately lost. Many at this year’s street parties are celebratin­g not just the return of Carnival, but also Bolsonaro’s defeat.

That was the case at the Heaven on Earth street party in Rio’s bohemian Santa Teresa neighborho­od on Feb. 11. Musicians pounded their drums as some revelers climbed fences to watch the scene from above the pulsing throng. Anilson Costa, a stilt-walker, already had a prime view from his elevated perch. Covered in flowers and brightly colored pom-poms, he poured a watering can labeled “LOVE” over people dancing below him.

“Seeing this crowd today is a dream, it’s very magical,” said Costa. “This is the post-pandemic Carnival, the Carnival of democracy, the Carnival of rebirth.”

This year shares some of the spirit of the 1919 edition, which took place right after Spanish influenza killed tens of thousands of Brazilians, but was no longer a significan­t threat. WWI had just ended, too, and people were eager to unburden themselves, said David Butter, the author of a book about that year’s celebratio­n.

“There were so many people in Rio’s city center for Carnival that the whole region ran out of water within hours,” said Butter.

Carnival’s cancelatio­n in 2021 and its lower-key version last year pummeled an industry that is a nearly year-long source of jobs for carpenters, welders, sculptors, electricia­ns, dancers, choreograp­hers and everyone else involved in bringing parades to the public. As such, Carnival’s full-fledged return is a shot in the arm for local economies.

“Yesterday, I went to sleep at 3 in the morning. Today, I’ll leave earlier, because I’ve lost my voice,” said seamstress Luciene Moreira, 60, as she sewed a yellow costume in samba school Salgueiro’s warehouse. “You have to sleep later one day, earlier the next; otherwise, the body can’t handle it. But it is very enjoyable!”

 ?? BRUNA PRADO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Carnival King Momo, Djferson Mendes da Silva, holds the key to the city during the official start of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday.
BRUNA PRADO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Carnival King Momo, Djferson Mendes da Silva, holds the key to the city during the official start of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday.

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