There is no time in Brazil like Carnaval, when everything shuts down and a national celebration takes place from the largest cities to the smallest towns. With the nation celebrating the holiday and its culture, here is a special “Around Latin America” focusing on Carnaval in Brazil.
-Though Carnaval only officially began last night, many businesses have been closed all week as people begin the celebrations. One of the unofficial kick-offs to Carnaval took place last weekend, when Rio hosted a “pet Carnaval” with dogs in full regalia (though some seem less-than-happy about their costumes in the February heat).
-Carnaval is a colorful festival, but it’s also a profitable one, especially for major cities tied strongly to the tradition of Carnaval. Salvador in Bahia is poised to get upwards of $300 million, while Rio de Janeiro is expecting well over half a billion dollars just in money that visitors spend while in the city during the holiday.
-For those strangers who hook up in the streets during Carnaval, only to never meet again and wonder what could have happened, there is now a website where people who meet but then are separated by the crowds can try to track each other down. In what reads kind of like a Carnaval-Craigslist of personals, people can submit their descriptions of who they are, who the other person was, and the context in which they met, in the hopes of having something less ephemeral than a quick embrace on the busy streets of Rio.
-Police in Rio may have ended their strike this past Monday (though it did not need “saving”; it would have gone off one way or another, even if it took thousands of military forces to serve as police during the festivities), but that doesn’t mean that fear during Carnaval has disappeared, as Health Minister Alexandre Padilha declared that the city of Rio de Janeiro was facing one of the worst dengue epidemics in recent memory.
-Though people generally perceive Carnaval as some massive, spontaneous party, the truth of the matter is that an inordinate amount of planning goes into the festivities, and not only for the samba schools that have to pick their theme, write their songs, prepare their floats, and design and create their costumes (on which I’ll have more later this weekend). The city government in Rio de Janeiro also has to put much work into preparing for Carnaval, planning for everything from public sanitation to public security to post-festivities cleanup.
-Rio’s not the only city with Carnaval, either. Bahia is a traditional center for the celebration, but São Paulo has its own celebrations that kicked off last night as well.