Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a festive time in which street parades, music, and celebration among millions of party-goers are to be found everywhere in the streets. Carnival is a traditional cultural event that has become very commercial for Rio in modern times. Traditionally, it is rooted in the time just before the Lenten fast of Roman Catholicism, a period of 40 days before Easter. Carnival was a type of last-chance celebration of feasting before the 40 days of fasting that Catholics all over the world would undertake. In Latin America, where Portuguese Catholics had settled in years prior, Carnival became an event all on its own,

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However, it has been said by some commentators that Carnival also has some non-Christian roots, considering that the pagan Romans also had a festive celebration of wine in which they worshipped Bachus. Then there is also the influence from Africa, of samba music, which has come to characterize the Carnival festivities over the years. In short, Carnival in Rio has a lot of influencesnot just Catholic.

McManus notes that tradition of Carnival grew out of the Parisian masque festivals in Europe, and were really begun in earnest in Rio by Portuguese who wanted to mimic the European holiday. Yet, the people of Brazil had to give it their own special and unique flavor: thus, they morphed it into a version uniquely their own over time, adding in elements from the people’s African and indigenous cultural backgrounds (McManus). Parades, costumes, music, dancing, balls, and more are all part of the Carnival in Rio to which half a million tourists from around the world routinely come year after year (McManus). Demographically speaking, however, the largest participants in Carnival in Rio are from the black community, as they see in it a celebration of their African roots, thanks to the samba music that dominates Carnival today in the street parades and in the main stadium where competitions are held (McManus).

To really understand the various cultural influences of Brazil and Rio, one can look at the art that has emerged from that region. For instance, the art of Kehinde Wiley represents the that is really at the heart of Carnival (KehindeWiley). His art is vibrant, eclectic, colorful, and assertive. Carnival is all of these things and more. Carnival is a celebration of life in Rio, a celebration of diversity; a moment of fun, excitement and community for hundreds of thousands of people and tourists. It can be described as a last bit of celebration before the serious work of Lent begins, but it has taken on even more significance beyond its original religious context. Rio is now known more for its Carnival than for anything else. The Afro-Brazilian influences of Wileys work represent the people who mainly promote Carnival today, and the Baroque influence represents the traditional European and Catholic influences that helped make the Carnival a reality in the first place. The blend of cultural influences found in Carnival are thus reflected well in the artwork of Wiley, who brings these influences to his visual style of creating works that represent the Brazilian culture in todays day and age.

Rio Carnival on Twitter helps to summarize the festivities with this tagline: parades, dancers, shows, pics, photos, news, blogs, bloggers, hotels, cheap flights, apartments, accommodation. And the Brazil Carnival Group on Twitter states that we deliver an unprecedented brand of high-end (VIP) tour excursions at the sexy world-class Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro & Salvador Brazil. The emphasis is on appealing to tourists and showing them an exotic time. Pictures are posted of men and women in various states of undress or covered in body paint and other dazzling costumes. There are pictures of blue oceans, white sandy beaches, large hotels, and posts about how some of the most beautiful women in the world can be found in Rio. Judging from these posts, Carnival is advertised to tourists as a decadent, lush experience that one must be young to enjoy.

Since Covid, however, Carnival has not been seen in Rioand this year it has been scheduled latenot before Lent but rather after Easter: Rios world-famous, traditional Carnival will feature samba school parades at Marqus de Sapuca on April 20 and 21 (Major). Moreover, the Carnival is expected to last through to May 1, which two whole weeks of festivities. The Outlook reports that for 2022, Carnival was postponed to make sure that no would prevent it from opening as during the past two years. The Outlook describes what some of those who participate in Carnival are doing to prepare for the festivities later this month, with one caption below a picture of dancers in white reading, An during a pre-carnival ritual to clean and bless the Sambadrome, called Lavagem which is also meant to deliver luck and a positive spirit during Carnival celebrations, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Clearly from this report, Carnival is much more eclectic than the traditional explanation affords it. There are many people dressed up to honor indigenous cultural icons, such as a man representing the Orixa Yoruba Exu (The Outlook).

Carnival has definitely become more commercial than it was in the past. Starting in the 1980s, the government of Rio decided to place main Carnival attractions in a facility built for that specific purpose, called the Sambadrome (Rio). These events held in the Sambadrome are ticketed events and one must pay to see them. They consist of 12 different teams of samba schools (Escolas de Samba) compete to see who delivers the most luxurious and exciting parade (Pagnoncelli). It is similar to what one might find in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, which is essentially rooted in the same tradition of celebrating with feasting and fun just before the Lenten season beginsand there were large Catholic populations in both regions for a long time, which explains why the traditions caught on and finally established themselves as tourist attractions. Before the Sambadrome stadium was constructed, however, Carnival parades were mainly held on Avenida Presidente Vargas, one of the largest streets in the downtown area (Rio). But street festivals are still common throughout Rio during Carnival (Pagnoncelli). In fact, as Pagnoncelli states, the real Carnival is to be found in the street paradesnot in the Sambadrome.

It is in the street parades that one finds the blocos, that provide free music and entertainment for carnival-goers. In the Sambarome, the samba schools compete against one another; but in the streets the blocos play for everyone simply for the sake of providing amusement. Pagnoncelli states that theblocoscarry the genuine spirit of carnival as they play oldmarchinhas de carnaval, short old samba songs that have a contagious rhythm and usually have a funny content. The bands compose their own music and often focus on a unique theme that is related to something that happened in Brazil in the previous year. The songs are meant to be fun and humorous and to facilitate the good time everyone is seeking to have.

The street bands began mainly in the 1960s, but even before then there were street parades with bands playing carnival songs and popular Brazilian music. Nowadays, blocos promote their own venues and street parades, much like a band would promote a concert anywhere else in the world. So if people want to see a specific band playing at Carnival, they will know where to go.

For a while in the 1990s, the scene got out of hand, as large crowds, tourists, and violence caused problems for the bands, and locals began to lose interest with the street parades. But today, Pagnoncelli states that young people are once again interested in starting bands and seeing their favorite bands perform in the streets. Pagnoncelli describes the scene as both local in flavor and international in content: The orchestra for the bloco isusually composed of no less than 20 musicians playing a variety of instruments such as drums, percussion, saxophones, trumpets, trombones and other Brazilian instruments likecuicaandpandeiro. The bands sing both popular Brazilian music and even some international tunes with asambaapproach. Fans will share their plans on Facebook, and will get people to turn out in huge numbers to support the bands they love.

The floats one will see at Carnival reflect the diversity of cultures in Rio today. Some will feature the dragon defeated by St. George according to Catholic tradition, and others will feature exotic animals and indigenous icons. There will be samba dancers and music aplenty. Yet it is the big stage at the Sambadrome where most people will go to see the competitions, paying for entry into the stadium just like one would pay to see a contest between professional sports teams. Carnival in Rio is almost like the Super Bowl in the US: it is the cultural event of the year.

The Latin American culture in Rio and Brazil was thus once dominated by the Portuguese traditions rooted in Roman Catholicism, but over the centuries the culture has turned back towards the indigenous culture that existed before the Portuguese arrived. There is also the commercial aspect of the celebration that has made it into a big money-maker for local businesses, as many tourists come from around the world to witness the Carnival at Rio. In this sense, the Latin American culture has reached beyond its geographical borders through the processes of globalization to attract people from other nations and cultures to take part in the festivities.

Yet, the festivities grew out of a wider awareness of and appreciation for a religious seasonLent. The festivities were meant to honor the god of wine prior to the season of fasting in which Catholics in Latin America would fast for 40 days in preparation for Easter. Today, there is not much emphasis on the religious context in which Carnival was once situated. This is obvious in 2022 in the fact that Carnival is being held after Easter instead of before Lent. But because it was canceled in the year prior due to Covid, many people are demanding that it be brought back and the actual dates do not really concern people that much.

In conclusion, Carnival in Rio is a huge cultural event that draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to join with the millions more locals of Brazil who come to hear the music, see the competitions, take part in the parades, witness the floats and exotic good times, and have a bit of fun. Tourists are targeted by companies online who want to sell the event as an exotic experience unlike anything else on the planet. The Carnival may be rooted way back in the tradition of feasting before a long fast for Lent, but today it takes place regardless of whether one will be fasting for Lent: it has become a cultural experience that is very Brazilian, and Rio is a city where Carnival is known well.

Works Cited

Brazil Carnival Group. Twitter.

KehindeWiley. Instagram.

Major, Brian. Carnival Returns to Brazil Amid New Tourism Leadership. Travel Pulse,


McManus, Melanie. How Brazilian Traditions Work.,Roman%20Catholic%20Church%20before%20Easter.

The Outlook. Brazil Authorities Postpone Carnival Festivities As Covid-19 Plays

Spoilsport Again. Outlook, 2022.

Pagnoncelli, Eduardo. Everything is Possible: Street Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

SoundsAndColors, 2011.

Rio. About the famous Rio Sambadrome.

Rio Carnival. Twitter.