Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘So much joy’: Brazil holding first carnival since Covid-19



‘So much joy’: Brazil holding first carnival since Covid-19

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of Vila Isabel samba school perform during the second night of Rio’s Carnival parade at the Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. AFP

‘So much joy’: Brazil holding first carnival since Covid-19

Rio de Janeiro’s carnival, a glittering, sequin-studded festival of the flesh, exploded back to life Friday with the first famed samba school parades since Covid-19 started devastating Brazil.

After two long years, a flood of dancers and drummers reclaimed the iconic beach city’s “Sambadrome,” its dedicated carnival parade venue, which had been turned into a drive-through vaccination center at the height of the health crisis.

The all-night parades by the city’s top samba schools Friday and Saturday nights are the first since February 2020, marking a turning point for hard-hit Brazil, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 660,000 lives, second only to the United States.

“I’m just so happy. I think a lot of people are going to cry when the parades start, including me,” said Ana Vieira, a 48-year-old geography teacher, who was dressed in a giant, sparkling white costume awaiting her turn to parade for the Imperatriz samba school.

“Carnival is life. You can see the happiness on people’s faces after two long years staying home and missing it,” Vieira, who has been parading for 20 years, told AFP.

But the festivities took a tragic turn before they began, when an 11-year-old girl died after being injured in a horrific float accident during a lower-level samba school parade contest Wednesday night, a preview of the main event.

She was rushed to the hospital, but died Friday of her wounds, city officials said.

Tragedy also struck Rio’s carnival in 2017, when two freak float accidents killed one person and injured dozens.

Couldn’t sleep

There were fears the carnival party would be axed again in 2022, after Rio authorities canceled it last year, then postponed it by two months this year from the traditional dates – just before the Catholic season of Lent – over fears of the omicron variant.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of Vila Isabel samba school perform during the second night of Rio’s Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. AFP

But with more than 75 percent of the South American country’s 213 million people now fully vaccinated, the average weekly Covid-19 death toll has plunged from more than 3,000 a year ago to around 100 now – allowing the show to go on.

All participants and the 75,000 attendees expected each night are required to present proof of vaccination.

City officials have not authorized the massive carnival street parties known as “blocos,” but several smaller ones are still being held.

The pandemic left Brazilians full of “saudades” – Portuguese for “longing” – for carnival, a free-for-all of dancing, singing and partying at close quarters that is essentially the opposite of social distancing.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited,” said Rita Marcelino, who was dancing the samba as she prepared to parade in an elaborate African costume.

“I was waking up every two minutes,” said the 62-year-old domestic worker, who lost her job and “many” friends and family members to the pandemic.

Two years of darkness

Each samba school in the competition has 60 to 70 minutes to tell a story in music and dance, to be evaluated on nine criteria by the jury.

The reigning champions, Viradouro, chose as their theme Rio’s epic 1919 carnival – the first celebrated after the devastation of another pandemic, the Spanish flu.

“No sadness can withstand so much joy,” says their samba theme song.

Other schools picked themes charged with social messages, with Brazil facing divisive elections in October expected to pit far-right President Jair Bolsonaro against leftist ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of Vila Isabel samba school perform during the second night of Rio’s Carnival parade on Sunday. AFP

Of the 12 schools, eight chose themes dealing with racism or Afro-Brazilian history, loaded issues in a country where the current president has faced frequent accusations of racism.

Their samba songs include treatments of the Black Lives Matter protests; tributes to two “orixas,” or deities, of Afro-Brazilian religion; and celebrations of black samba singers.

Carnival should also provide some needed relief for the pandemic-battered economy.

Beyond the swirl of floats, feathers and barely covered flesh, carnival is big business, moving some four billion reais ($800 million) and creating at least 45,000 jobs, according to official figures.

Participants were just happy the party was back.

“We’ve had two years of so much darkness in the world,” said Latino Suarez, 45, who traveled from Sao Paulo to parade.

“Brazil without carnival isn’t Brazil. It’s part of who we are.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro