The Myth of the Brazilian Carnival

It is probably an indisputable fact that Brazilians like to celebrate carnival. At least the majority of them. And the rest of the world looks on with amazement, joy and also some indignation. Because the scantily clad ladies are quite hard to take for rather prudish minds. Due to the wild samba rhythms, the even more intense moving hips and the excruciating heat that chases the carnival on the whole festival week, those costumes are no surprise. They are called “fantasia” which means fantasy. But seeing half-naked bodies all the time, there isn’t much left for the fantasy. However, there are also real fantasias. Those are preferably worn by children and adolescents. One see a mice peacefully frolicing around with a cat as well as witches fraternizing with princesses. On carnival everything is possible. That’s the reason why Brazilians like this festivity so much. Finally, not just hostile animal species are abruptly friends, even rich and poor, blacks and whites, maid and mistress celebrate together the so-called “blocos de carnaval” on the road. Thus the carnival knows neither racial nor class-specific nor demographic boundaries. And exactly this is what people like. Just being a human, not facing any prejudices. Exactly these prejudices still determine, even if often subliminal, the Brazilian society.


For example, in the highly popular telenovelas on “Rede Globo” and co. clear social disparities are seen: Rich families are usually always fair-skinned, domestic workers, mostly colored actor, are discredited and hawkers with their carretinhas are often seen as inferior people. Who doesn’t watch telenovelas, of course don’t know a thing about it at talks at lunchtime or on social networks. And will become an maverick, sooner or later. The hype of telenovelas even goes that far that the streets were emptied as the last episode of the prime-time novela “Amor à Vida” was broadcast. The usually hard partying Brazilians spent the evening in their own four walls to witness as Pilar, César’s wife, takes the blame for the fatal accident of Aline’s mother.

Violence, intrigue, hope, unrestrained consumption and sexual escapades: These issues aren’t only determined the telenovelas, but also the Brazilian carnival. There is no other festivity on which people drink as much Skol, Brahma, Itaipava and other “cerveja” as on carnival. And that has its consequences. Pickpockets have an easy job of it, just as horny, drunken men who want to seduce one of the scantily clad ladies and take her home or to the nearest street corner. Not infrequently such affair ends in an unplanned pregnancy. Others don’t find even the way home or drive tanked. Just in this year during the carnival, 1.5 million car accidents with 94 fatalities occurred in the whole country. A horrible number. In the previous year there were almost twice as much accidents. The Polícia Federal stopped 1.3 million drunken drivers of which 153 were taken into custody. To sober up, of course. No surprise. Finally, at every corner lurks the temptation. And being in the middle of a huge bloco most tend to be fooled into drinking one or another beer.



Even at the “blocos de carnaval” one see the industrious merchants with their refrigerated trucks who walk through the masses selling “refrigerante”, i.e. cola or guaraná, beer or water. This is not the only lucrative business at carnival time. Some stores offer to use the toilet for a fee of at least five Reais, about 1.50 Euros. What doesn’t sound that expensive, is absolute usury in Brazil. But especially for the ladies, it isn’t so easy to relieve themselves into the wild. In particular, the major cities in fact struggle enormously with those who pee in public. Whether exterior walls of houses, shrubs or footpaths: Nothing can be protected. And so after the carnival, it smells disgracefully of stale, old urine and partly also of vomit in the streets. Confetti, used condoms and even panties can be found on the rubish-strewn streets. A scenery as after a rock concert. One can search unsuccessfully for empty beverage cans. Because this is another business on carnival. So-called ” catadores de latinha” collect every little piece of a beverage can and make money out of them. At collection points, they exchange scrap metal against Reais and thus, those people can buy some food.

After the “blocos de carnaval” the party is far from being over. At the destination of the carnival parade, usually a large square in the city, different samba groups gather together and play music. Eating churrasco and drinking cerveja, the carnival revelers celebrate until late at night – and far beyond.

I have spent the carnival, the five feast days, in three different cities and I experienced two parades, one in Tiradentes and one in São João del Rei. My first carnival in Brazil. It was hot. It was crowded. It was “suada” (sweaty). It was great. And apparently I’m a natural talent in samba dancing. Because an older man, a seasoned Brazilian, went to my boyfriend and told him that I could dance excellent. Me, a white woman, a German. Actually impossible. Finally, samba is black. It’s the dance of the Brazilian slaves, those who celebrated their carnival in the streets at the beginning of the 20th century. The rich society was content with joint events at noble ballrooms and clubhouses, the so-called “carnaval de salão”. Today, those celebrations are rarely arranged. But that what has survived is the Afro-Brazilian culture. Or rather: What represents the billion dollar business carnival has its origins in the former slave culture. So why does there still exist such a level of discrimination against the Afro-Brazilian population?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. agogo22 says:

    Reblogged this on msamba.

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