Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival conjures a kaleidoscope of images: a sea of bare flesh, feathered beauty queens, samba dancing and theatrical floats carrying thousands of dancers. Outside the parades that fill the sambodromo, the streets of Brazil also come to life. For two magical weeks locals don a costume (often self-made constructions) and flock to the streets of Rio to participate in street processions known as 'blocos' or 'bandas'.
Carnival is a free for all, of sorts. It’s a party, and boy do Brazilians know how to party. You can wander the streets from around seven in the morning, booze readily available and constantly supplied by individuals selling their wares. The dehydration and effects of the South American sun hit you by about midday, leaving you parched and delirious. As the effects of alcohol mount throughout the day, inhibitions disappear.
Carnival originated as a sort of pre-cursor to Lent. Alcoholic beverages, meat and other hedonistic vices are consumed in abundance, prior to abstinence during Lent. Carnival events occur throughout Catholic parts of the world but Rio de Janeiro takes the record for the largest Carnival in the world, with two million people taking to the streets every day.
There can be up to 300 parties throughout Rio at any given time. During Carnival, street parties often start early in the morning and go on late into the night. While technically Carnival falls just over a week, the street parades and pre-carnival blocos start a number of weeks prior fondly thought of as warming up or rehearsing for the real deal.
Post-Carnival celebrations continue for the weeks following the main event. Brass bands and percussionists gather during the blocos and play an array of Latino and samba music, known as marchinhas. The beats are impossible to stay still to, leaving the masses swaying their hips and jauntily shaking what their mumma’ gave them. Hundreds of vendors line the streets ready to fuel the participants with more alcoholic beverages and energy drinks to combat the heat.
Hedonism runs rife for these few weeks, could you blame locals for wanting an opportunity to let go, forget their current political climate and bathe in the colour and lively festivities that carnival brings? Life is a celebration worth celebrating after all.