I owe a blog post. It’s been a while (sorry!). The city’s finally calmed down after a hectic week of Carnival. So I’ll start there:
I had high expectations going into Carnival. I wasn’t really thinking about it before I got here, but everyone else was really excited. People kept talking it up. There are two parts to Carnival: the performances that everyone sees pictures of, and the blocos or block parties. The blocos were actually a really big disappointment. They are the reason the locals actually leave town for the week. After the hype I’d heard from many of my friends, I expected the blocos to be the wildest parties I’d ever seen, with great music and dancing all night long. In reality, it was thousands of tourists, with awful music, and .01% of the people dancing, while the other 99% watch.
The other part of Carnival is samba performances in the Sambodromo. Those were great. Groups of people in ‘schools’, sort of like dance academies spend all year preparing, practicing their routine and building massive floats in order to compete at Carnival. It takes days for all of the samba schools to do their routines, so my friends and I went to the Champions’ parade, which marks the end of Carnival, and where the top schools have an encore.
I’m not sure how to describe it. It was like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I’ve never cared for), but everyone was so much more passionate, even the crowd was drawn in by the music and creativity of the samba schools’ routines and costumes. The dancing was great, and the overall was entertaining as well. Each of the samba schools has a series of floats that pertain to a theme they choose. We saw themes like soccer/World Cup, the history of Brazil, and costumes to match. Tribal soccer players, pirates and slave traders were the norm. There were also giant shrimp, and bundles of wheat… not sure why you’d want to be that, but apparently it’s a big deal to be in one of these performances.
So the blocos… not so much, but Carnival’s main attraction lived up to its glory. I really appreciated seeing such a meaningful cultural production. Though, I don’t know that I would have gone for it if the crowd wasn’t so invested. The emotional and tangible investment that Rio makes in these performances is what held my attention and induced the awe that I felt in attending. It’s inspiring to see passionate people doing what they love.
That was my favorite part.