And Now That Rio's Carnival is Over…

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Carnival in Brazil’s sprawling Rio de Janeiro took over its streets for its annual event from February 28 through March 4, 2014, another year, we sadly missed being there directly. That said, we’ve been watching it from the road and was excited to see people packing the streets for parades, dancing and raucous open-air parties that began at daybreak the night before the kick off and pulsated throuhout the week.

The Carnaval in Rio is a world famous festival held before Lent every year and considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723. Above is from this year and the below shot is from 1999.

Every year, the carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into 5 leagues/ divisions). A samba school is composed of a collaboration of local neighbours that want to attend carnival together, with some kind of regional, geographical common background.  

One of the many main purposes of the Rio carnival parade is for samba schools to compete with fellow rival… not (they are called co-sisters) samba-schools; this competition is the climax of the whole carnival festival in this city, related to the samba-schools environment.

Some of the important roles include the porta-bandeira and mestre-sala. The porta-bandeira is a very important lady who is in charge of the samba school flag, including making sure to not allow the flag to roll. She is accompanied by the mestre-sala, who is supposed to draw everyone’s attention to “his queen”, the porta-bandeira. Floatees, who are also important, are the people who populate the floats, also known as destaques. The floatees have the most luxurious and expensive costumes that can be extremely heavy. Along with all the floatees is one main floatee that is located at the top of each float. The main destaque dances and sings for the entire time that the float is on the runway.

One other aspect that is mandatory is the presence of the ala das baianas. This is a wing of the samba school entry that includes at least 100 females only. These women along with many other people do not ride on the floats as many others do, instead they are passistas, the people who belong to the samba school that do the marching alongside and between the floats.

In addition to Rio, there’s also sequin-drenched samba group parades this week. The nightlong parades see six samba groups showing off both Sunday and Monday nights, with powerful percussion sections, elaborate floats and more than 2,500 participants in each parade, which last about an hour. Forty judges take part and the groups are judged in 10 categories, from the quality of the drum sections to the beauty of costumes.

Photo credit: top photo from (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images), second photo from totallycoolpix, third photo from Wikipedia.

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