Friday , October 30 2020
Breaking News
Home / World News / Rio Carnival is off for first time in a century

Rio Carnival is off for first time in a century

Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was on February 26, one day after this year’s Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual week-long series of parades halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday’s announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city — one of worst hit by the pandemic in Brazil.

Instead of Carnival costumes, workers from the Vila Isabel samba school make scrubs for medical workers in Rio de Janeiro in April.

Instead of Carnival costumes, workers from the Vila Isabel samba school make scrubs for medical workers in Rio de Janeiro in April.Credit:AP

Nearly all of Rio’s samba schools are closely linked to working class communities. The “schools” are effectively community associations with thousands of fervent supporters much like football clubs. Their processions include elaborate floats accompanied by tireless drummers and costumed dancers who vie to impress a panel of judges on several criteria. Tens of thousands of spectators pack the bleachers of the arena, known as the Sambadrome, while tens of millions watch it on television.

Before the schools began competing in the 1930s, Carnival was celebrated in dance halls and haphazardly on the streets, Simas said. The parades entered the purposely built Sambadrome in the 1980s, and have become Rio’s quintessential Carnival display.

The immense labour required for each show was already stymied by restrictions on gatherings that Rio’s governor imposed in March. Even with those measures, the metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, has recorded more than 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Beneath the Sambadrome’s bleachers, the city created a homeless shelter for the vulnerable population during the pandemic.

Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio, on Monday.

Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio, on Monday.Credit:AP

Samba schools suspended float construction, costume sewing, dance rehearsals and also social projects. The Mangueira’s program in a favela that teaches music to children — keeping them away from crime and cultivating future drummers — hasn’t held classes since March.

The pulse of entire suburbs like Nilopolis, whose population of 160,000 cheers the Beija-Flor samba school, has faded, Simas said.

Some performers resorted to odd jobs and gigs. Diogo Jesus, the lead dancer or “master of ceremonies” in the Mocidade school, couldn’t make rent without his income from private events. He started driving for Uber and sewing facemasks to sell at a market.

“It was a blow. We live Carnival all year round, and many people when they realised everything would stop wound up getting sick or depressed,” Jesus said at home in Madureira, a suburb in Rio. “Carnival is our life.”

Diogo Jesus, the main dancer for the Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school, has been forced to drive for Uber to earn an income.

Diogo Jesus, the main dancer for the Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school, has been forced to drive for Uber to earn an income.Credit:AP

“We must await the coming months for definition about if there will be a vaccine or not, and when there will be immunisation,” LIESA’s Castanheira said. “We don’t have the safety conditions to set a date.”

The last time Rio’s Carnival was suspended was 1912, following the death of the foreign relations minister. The mayor of Rio, at the time Brazil’s capital, postponed by two months all licenses for the popular dance associations’ parties, according to Luis Claudio Villafane, a diplomat and author of the book The Day They Delayed Carnival. The mayor also voiced opposition to unregulated celebrations, but many Rio residents partied in the streets anyway.

Revellers were undeterred during World War II. And they poured into the street every year during more than two decades of military dictatorship, until 1985, with government censors reviewing costumes, floats and song lyrics.

The 2020 coronavirus already forced Rio’s City Hall to scrap traditional plans for its second-biggest party, New Year’s Eve, which draws millions of people to Copacabana beach for dazzling fireworks. Earlier this month, the city’s tourism promotion agency Riotur announced that main tourist spots would instead display light and music shows to be broadcast over the internet.

Loading

Delay of Carnival will deprive Rio state of much needed tourism revenue. In 2020, it drew 2.1 million visitors and generated 4 billion reais ($1 billion) in economic activity, according to Riotur. A statement from the agency provided no further clarity on the fate of the Carnival street parties.

Some parties are small — for example one including a few dozen dog owners exhibiting their pets wearing wigs or funny hats. But most feature amps blasting music to throngs of thousands who dance, kiss and swill booze in a crush of celebration. The biggest one boasts more than 2 million partygoers.

Rita Fernandes, president of Os Blocos da Sebastiana, said her association has already cancelled its 11 street parties that together draw 1.5 million revellers. Most others groups would follow, she said.

“We cannot be irresponsible and bring the multitudes to the street,” she said, pointing to Europe’s second wave of contagion.

After several weeks of declining daily infections, Rio authorities have begun expressing concern about an uptick. Public spaces such as beaches have been crowded in violation of pandemic restrictions.

A Mangueira drummer, Laudo Braz Neto, said the children he instructed before the pandemic are listless, but there was no way to put on Carnival without being able to safely gather.

“Carnival will only really happen when the whole world can travel. It’s a spectacle the world watches, brings income and movement here,” he said. “I have no hope for 2021.”

Most Viewed in World

Loading

About admin

Check Also

France defiant as recently arrived knifeman brings terror back to Nice

He then launched a frenzied assault on a woman aged 44, who managed to run …