Carnival time in Rio between magic and politics

Carnival time in Rio, between magic and politics

Do you love red and white? For green and pink? Or does your heart beat for blue and white? The renowned samba schools will defend their colors on Sunday evening at the “greatest show in the world”: the Rio Carnival.

“Day of Grace,” sang Candeia, one of the greats in the history of samba, in a moving song dedicated to this annual gathering. Day of joy and faith.

On two evenings in a row, Sunday and Monday, communion takes place in the cauldron of the Sambodrome. Signed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and celebrating its 40th anniversary, the concrete monument houses Marques de Sapucai Avenue, a 700-meter-long artery flanked by 70,000-seat grandstands.

It will be the magic of monumental floats, dancers in sparkling costumes and the power of “drums,” rhythm groups that wake the dead.

But through magic, schools will talk about Brazil, its history and its identity.

“A field of artistic research” and “social criticism” go hand in hand with carnival, Vivian Pereira, a member of the independent study group Quilombo do Samba, tells AFP.

“Samba schools pay attention to the social and political context and use their space, the time they spend on Avenue Marques de Sapucai to express themselves on these issues,” adds this young passionate woman.

On the program: praise of little-known or well-known black personalities such as the singer Alcione, invocation of traditions with their roots in Africa, but also honoring indigenous communities.

The Salgueiro School will celebrate the worldview of the Yanomami, an Amazonian people facing a serious humanitarian crisis caused by the incursion of illegal gold miners.

Lula to Bolsonaro

With the return of left-wing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to power last year, the general tone generally appears to be less offensive than during Jair Bolsonaro's four-year term.

The carnival is in full swing, while the far-right ex-president, who has never hidden his lack of sympathy for this culture, is more threatened than ever by justice. She is leading a wide-ranging investigation into an alleged “coup attempt” orchestrated by the Bolsonaro camp to avert his electoral defeat in 2022.

Samba was invented a century ago by communities descended from African slaves who were forcibly taken to Brazil. Since then it has been the symbol of popular culture in the country and in Rio.

Days of grace, but also days of conflict: six schools will parade on the first evening, the other six on the next, the journey will last 60 to 70 minutes each. They all prepared for a year to win the championship.

The jurors decide their fate based on precise criteria, the quality of the “allegorical” floats and costumes, the choice of theme or choreography.

Also real days: The Carioca celebrations were expected to bring 5.3 billion reals ($1.45 billion) into the economy. Advertising is having a field day. A beer brand has released a collection of cans in the colors of each of the twelve competing schools.

“Playful Citizenship”

To ensure that serious crime does not spoil the party, thousands of police officers are deployed throughout the region during Carnival, especially around the Sambodrome.

Another reason for concern: a dengue epidemic that has already led to around fifty confirmed deaths in Brazil. Mosquito repellent will be distributed to spectators.

At the same time, the street carnival takes place during the day, led by the “blocs” and their musical parades, from privileged areas to working-class neighborhoods.

On Saturday, in the chic Ipanema district known for its dream beach, a “Bloco” attracted a colorful, short-dressed and cheerfully drunken crowd by paying homage to Conceiçao Evaristo, a character made up of Brazilian letters.

On this occasion, the great black writer expressed in the newspaper O Globo a wish about Carnival and her country plagued by inequalities: “May this moment of celebration transform or that it can translate social, economic relations and politics into the daily life of. “ of Brazilians, and that everyone is integrated, not through a playful citizenship, but through a legal citizenship.”