February 27, 2009
By James Klein
NEW YORK (KPRENSA) Samba is alive in Rio de Janeiro. Twelve samba schools and thousands of dancers marched this past Sunday, February 22nd and Monday February 23rd in the “Sambódromo”, in the center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before more than 70,000 spectators.
Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, although not the oldest, is certainly the best known celebrations in the world. Over several nights, tens of thousand of Brazilians and visitors from all over world, take over the streets and beaches of Rio, filling them with light, color and, mainly, with samba.
In the main Rio de Janeiro Carnaval competition this year were 12 samba schools: Mangueira, Portela, Salgueiro, Beija-Flor, Imperatriz, Império Serrano, Mocidade Independente, Grand Rio, Villa Isabel, Unidos da Tijuca, Porta da Pedra, and Viradouro.
On the average, each school spends some 2.5 million dollars to produce their performance. Most of the money, around 1.5 million, comes from public assistance, television rights and the sale of entrance tickets. The remainder each school’s budget comes from private sponsorship and merchandising deals. For example, the Rio Grande school received $950,000 dollars this year from French businesses and also from the government Nice, France because the theme of their parade was “France in Brazil”.
The History of Carnaval
The Rio’s Carnival is an annual celebration that takes place forty days before Easter (marking the beginning of lent). It has many differences from its European counterparts and also differs from similar celebrations throughout Brazil.
Given its catholic inspiration, it is celebrated like a religious event.
The European origins of the event go back to a type of carnaval called “introito” (“entrada” in Latin or “entrudo” in Portuguese), that was characterized by the game of throwing water from one person to another as a way to purify the body. The “entrudo” was prohibited without too much success in the middle of Nineteenth century, because it was considered violent by upper social classes (it is said that some people died from infections and other diseases because sometimes rotten fruits were thrown).
At the end of century Nineteenth century, “Cordões” (“Lazos”, in Portuguese) were begun in Rio de Janeiro and they consisted of large groups of people walking the streets of a neighborhood playing music and dancing. Cordões were the predecessors of the modern schools of samba.
The “blocos,” another name for cordões, are one of the other present representations of the popular carnaval of Brazil. They are formed by people who disguise themselves according to certain subject or celebrate the carnival in a specific form. The samba schools are official Carnaval organizations and work all year preparing themselves for the carnaval parade.
The main celebrations were carried out in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the samba schools and blocos filled whole districts.