Rio de Janeiro (“River of January”) is the second largest city of Brazil and South America, behind São Paulo, and the second largest metropolitan area in South America, behind São Paulo. It is the state capital of Rio de Janeiro.
The Brazilian carnival (Carnaval, in Portuguese) is an annual celebration held 40 days before Easter and marking the beginning of Lent. Rio de Janeiro has many Carnival choices, including the famous Samba school (Escolas de Samba) parades in the sambadrome exhibition centre and the popular blocos de carnaval, which parade in almost every corner of the city. The most famous ones are:
- Cordão do Bola Preta: Parades in the centre of the city. It is one of the most traditional carnavals. In 2008, 500,000 people attended in one day.
- Suvaco do Cristo: Band that parades in the Botanic Garden, directly below the Redeemer statue’s arm. The name, in English, translates as ‘Christ’s armpit’, and was chosen for that reason.
- Carmelitas: Band that was supposedly created by nuns, but in fact it is just a theme chosen by the band. It parades in the hills of Santa Teresa, which have very nice views.
- Simpatia é Quase Amor: One of the most popular parades in Ipanema. Translates as ‘Friendliness is almost love’.
- Banda de Ipanema: The most traditional in Ipanema. It attracts a wide range of revellers, including families and a wide spectrum of the gay population (notably spectacular drag queens).
In 1840, the first Carnaval was celebrated with a masked ball. As years passed, adorned floats and costumed revelers became a tradition amongst the celebrants. Carnaval is known as a historic root of Brazilian music.
Once a pagan celebration in ancient Rome, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is now considered one of the greatest shows on Earth. Rio de Janeiro is known as the cultural capital of Brazil and was the administrative capital from 1822 to 1960, when Federal Government moved to the new capital, Brasilia. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723.
The famous carnival parade has been going on since the 1930s. The parade starts Sunday evening and continues into early morning Monday of the celebration. Until 1984, when it was moved to Av. Presidente Vargas, the parade took place at Praca Onze. In 1984 the parade finally found its permanent home, the Sambadrome [“sambódromo” in Portuguese]. The Sambadrome is a large structure that was built in the downtown area, which includes several buildings that make a circular open area in the middle. In the off season, the buildings of the Sambadrome are used as classrooms for the local public schools.
The carnival parade is filled with people and floats from various samba schools. A samba school can either be an actual school or just a collaboration of local neighbors that want to attend carnival. Samba schools include: Imperio Serrano, Academicos do Salgueiro, Unidos da Tijuca, and Beija-Flor de Nilopolis.
Besides the magnificent carnival parade, there are wonderful balls. Balls of every kind can be found in Rio including gala balls, balls for singles, and gay balls. The gala balls are the only luxury balls that are still around that can be enjoyed at the Copacabana Palace. Many different people attend the gala balls such as local socialites, soccer players, models, and international stars. The gala balls are a luxury event which requires black tie or fancy costumes. Besides the fancy gala balls are more casual and specific balls including the balls for singles and gays. Balls for singles are found at Copacabana Beach and a club called Scala. Gay balls are found at the Gala Gay at Scala and are open to everyone, especially for gays with alternative lifestyles.
Incorporated into every aspect of the Rio carnival are dancing and music. The most famous dance is the samba, an African dance brought over by the slaves. The samba was created by the African slaves mixing with the choros, street bands, of Brazil. The samba remains a popular dance not only in carnival but in the ghetto villages outside of the main cities. These villages keep alive the historical aspect of the dance without the influence of the western cultures. Other dances include the lundu, the polka, and the maxixe.