March 8, 2011

Carnaval in Rio - Brazil (#1)

Photo by Alan Betensley

As a carioca, I am obliged to provide you some interesting and true inside tips for Carnaval. If you are coming to the lovely city of Rio de Janeiro (Cidade Maravilhosa) during Carnaval, please, prepare yourself mentally. This is a forever changing experience. I am warning you!


So, let me know a little bit more about Carnaval. Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, huge organized parades are led by samba schools. Those official parades are meant to be watched by the public, while minor parades ("blocos") allowing public participation can be found in other cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Seguro and Recife have organized groups parading through streets, and public interacts directly with them. This carnival is heavily influenced by African-Brazilian culture. Crowds follow the trio elétricos floats through the city streets. Also in northeast, Olinda carnival features unique characteristics, part influenced by Venice Carnival mixed with cultural depictions of local folklore.

Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. The country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors, more than a million visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches awareness campaigns at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations (as well as illegal gambling groups), who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba Schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs four entire nights. They are part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, theme, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.

Hum, ok, when is it? To put it short, Carnaval is 47 days before Easter.

Tip # = If it rains, it sucks badly! Pray for the days to be shiny and yellow!

Tip # = If you have never being to the official parade at Sapucai, you should! This is one of those items listed in those books: 100 things would should do before you die! Contact your travel agent and make it happen! I found this interesting slide show with some pictures deom Carnaval 2010. Hope you get an idea of it:

What is the name of those things that parade at Sapucai? They are called Samba Schools or Escolas de Samba.

How much time is each Samba School allowed to dance on the Sapucai runway? Well, there are parades on Sunday and Monday from 65 to 82 minutes. Nothing more, nothing less or they lose points. You will just run or samba in the same place if you have to in order for that time to be accomplished.

How many judges are there? About 50 trained judges.
What the hell do they judge? Organization, discipline, technic, samba-enredo (the song), harmony, costumes, ensemble, percursion, allegory are among the items judged.

Samba School Unidos da Tijuca

How many schools are there? Well, you know I am talking only about Rio de Janeiro, dont you? So, the special group (which are the bigger samba schools WHERE YOU SHOULD PARADE IF YOU CONSIDER IT) has 12 schools and the access group has 11 schools.

Special Group:
> Sao Clemente
> Imperatriz Leopoldinense
> Portela
>Unidos da Tijuca
> Unidos de Vila Isabel
> Mangueira
> Uniao da Ilha do Governador
> Salgueiro
> Mocidade
> Grande Rio
> Porto da Pedra
> Beija-Flor

Access Group
Alegria da Zona Sul
Renascer de Jacarepaguá
Unidos do Viradouro
Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz
Império da Tijuca
Inocentes de Belford Roxo
Acadêmicos do Cubango
Estácio de Sá
Império Serrano
Acadêmicos da Rocinha
Caprichosos de Pilares

What are the times of the parades? 9pm; 10:05pm; 11:10pm; 12:15pm; 1:20am and 2:25am.

Wow, those are late hours for us, lazy foreigners. Are you Brazilians crazy? Oh, hum, yes, we are. Just drink tons of water, use shoes (no sandals, pls), rest a lot before and after and sleep during your beach tan!

So, do you have any tips on how I do it? Of course, we are here for this, dude! In my opinion, you should parade in the first school of the day and then pay to sit in the vip area, a balcony or a numbered chair in Sapucai in order for you to watch the other schools after you parade . It's worth it!

The map below shows the samba runway (Sapucai) and the sectors. The parade starts on the left and it finishes on the right side of the picture (next to the 13 sector). I have bought numbered chairs in this sector before and it was great. It is just in front of the mass area, the bleachers, so you get their vibrations, screams, claps, but you enjoy a safe, organized (WITH BATHROOMS AND FOOD) in a "calm" area. I would not buy tickets on the sector 3, as the samba schools are preparing to enter at this point, you might not see the best parts of the parade.

Tip # = Copacabana just has the international fame. If you want to see a clean (or cleaner) place and beautiful people go to Ipanema or Leblon. You won't regret this advise, principally, this time of the year. Copacabana is known to have a great mixture of people: poor, middle class, gay, transvestite, black, white, yellow, every kind of ideology, which is really good in a normal basis.

Tip # = There is a new rule going on. You are not allowed to pee in public on the streets. There were already 500 people arrested this year. So, my tip to you is to pay R$3,00 for a beer and pee in a bar peacefully. There are public bathrooms (aka Johnny on the spots) - as above - but as you can imagine they can get quite stinky and dirty.

Tip # = You should to go Lapa. There some cool places to visit there like Rio Scenaruim and Lapa 40 Graus.

Tip # = If you are one of those lucky people with money and want to meet the rich Brazilians, dont waste your time and just go to the Copacabana Palace Carnaval Ball! You will not regret it!

To be continued...

** post written by the "Nega Maluca"

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!

    Carnival rio de janeiro


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