Tradition: Return of joy: Rio de Janeiro celebrates carnival again

After the corona-related cancellation, the famous parades in the sambodrome are back in Rio. The city is happy: it suffered a lot from the lack of the biggest party in the world.

After the corona-related failure last year and the postponement in February, carnival fans in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro took over the baton again.

Mayor Eduardo Paes symbolically handed over the key to the city to “King Momo” on Wednesday, who will now “govern” during the unscheduled great days until Sunday. “I have the great honor to announce that the greatest spectacle on earth is back,” said Paes. He thanked the health workers, “without which it would not be possible to experience this moment”. Paes, a samba fan, had also pushed vaccinations with Carnival in mind.

The keys were handed over in the city palace, where “Rei Momo” aka Wilson Dias da Costa was welcomed with samba music and dancing. The first, lower-class samba schools should already be moving through the sambodrome in Rio in the evening (local time). The main spectacle is then on Friday and Saturday, when the twelve samba schools of the first division parade. Tens of thousands from the stands and millions in front of television screens in Brazil and around the world follow the parades in the Sambodrome.

Carnival is a sacred ritual in Rio. The carnival metropolis had suffered greatly from the lack of the biggest party in the world. Because Carnival is all year round – not just on the days when tens of thousands from the stands and millions in front of the television screens in Brazil and around the world follow the parades in the Sambodrome. “This is the work of a community,” says the flag bearer of the “Império Serrano”, Maura Luiza Leal, the German Press Agency.

“Cariocas”, as the residents of the city are called, and members of samba schools are very happy that parades are taking place again. “We had a very difficult time,” says Vitor César Ferreira, known as “Vitinho”. “It’s very difficult to be without a carnival. A lot of people think this is just a party. But it’s work, it’s energy for people who were born with samba.” The percussion master sees the fact that there is carnival again as a great victory.

No celebrations in the pandemic

In March and April last year, the health system in Brazil collapsed at the height of the corona pandemic, which had gotten out of control. More than 660,000 people died in connection with Covid-19 in the largest country in Latin America. According to the statistics portal “Our World in Data”, South America is now the vaccination pioneer, the region with the highest percentage of vaccinated people.

Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes, himself a samba fan, also pushed the corona vaccinations with a view to the carnival. Proof of vaccination is required for the parades in the Sambodrome as well as for the rehearsals of the «Império Serrano».

A second failure after 2021 would have been difficult to justify politically and would have been difficult for the city and its residents to cope with. The samba is the soul of the metropolis, the carnival the annual catharsis of the people, in which the pressure is released as if from a pressure cooker. Almost everything is allowed – dancing, flirting and more.

The spectacle usually attracts millions of tourists to Sugarloaf Mountain every year. According to a report by the “Carnavalesco” portal, the carnival brings the city revenues of the equivalent of around 620 million euros, and the hotels in Rio recorded an average occupancy rate of around 75 percent from April 15th to 17th. Conversely, samba schools like the “Mangueira” or the “Portela” did social work to support those who got into trouble during the corona pandemic.

As the vaccination campaign progressed, the number of deaths fell sharply and optimism grew. In September, the “Império Serrano” returned to its headquarters. “Before, rehearsals were forbidden. We only practiced alone at home and switched live together, it was a celebration every time,” says Vitor “Vitinho” César Ferreira.

The Brazilians rarely lose their joy anyway. Almost everything is a reason for her – soccer, the beach, nice weather, now the cool temperatures. Or dance in the samba school.

Actually, they should have gone through the Sambodrome in February, but the celebrations were canceled and postponed to April. Just wait and see, Vitinho said to himself, in two months we will be able to show our work and experience this moment.

Two carnivals this year

But Rio couldn’t quite let it go in February either. Brazilians like having two carnivals this year. Despite the cancellation, the city celebrated an unusual carnival at the end of the month: the association of samba schools had invited to the – unofficial – opening with a mini-avenida in the “Cidade do Samba”.

“It’s very important for us,” said the president of the “Portela” samba school, Luis Carlos Magalhães, at the time of the dpa. “We lost many members because of the pandemic, especially many of the elderly died.” It was all the more important to see friends again after a year without carnival. And to experience again the great joy of the most Brazilian of all festivals.


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