Carnival Blog

Carnival dancer 

It’s carnival and the parade has truly been rained on. The samba performers have been out there grimacing through gritted teeth beneath dripping polystyrene artistry and waterlogged feathers.

They had nothing to worry about compared to the flood of health and safety mishaps. A parade truck in a Sabara in Minas Gerais lost control and rolled downhill killing 2 and injuring another 14 of the dancing throng. In Fortaleza a stand collapsed and 40 spectators fell 3 metres and were buried by a pile of scaffolding. A gyrating samba beauty toppled 30ft from her wobbly, lofty perch in the Rio parade on to the concrete show ground below and had to be stretchered off (an engineer friend witnessed this and said the float’s protruding crows nests for the gogo-ing samba queens looked highly dicey, “They were an accident waiting to happen”). The show went on. And mud slides in the Petropolis region killed 8 who’d tried to escape the Carnival. 

And the calamity continued with scandal. Normally shocked by topless Europeans ‘cavorting’ disgracefully on the beach, boobies are part of the normal carnival parade costume. Buttocks are of course out. All over the place. And shaking. But nothing down below? The Judges draw the line at going bottomless and Sao Clemente broke the golden rule of “No genitalia” (and that’s not what the offending samba queen was called). It’s thought Viviane Castro was the culprit who dared to jiggle sporting only a micro 1.6 inch patch. And the web of drugs turpitude around Mangueira grew as one of the composers of Mangueira’s parade refrain was wanted on drug trafficking charges.

Then there’s the samba school Viradouro fiasco. But they were spared embarrassing themselves with a display of extreme bad taste by an intervening Brazilian Jewish group. The school’s creative director had decided to showcase a Holocaust-themed float, featuring a Hitler dancing on a pile of emaciated corpses. Viradouro then made themselves look really naive by protesting that they’d been denied freedom of speech and paraded with their dancers dressed in white accessorised by white gags. I mean talk about taking the wrong thing seriously…Mel Brooks was blessed with acidic irony. But for Brazilians the big carnival parade is very serious. Especially for people like model Angela Bismarchi who had nylon wires implanted in her eyes to give them that specifically oriental look especially for her appearance with the samba school that celebrated 100 years of Japanese immigration to Brazil. It’s her 42nd cosmetic surgery and apparently she’s aiming to beat the current record of 47 surgeries. She’s now married to her second plastic surgeon husband (the current one has operated on her ten times). What on earth she going to end up looking like in 30 years? 

Surrounded by gasps of delight at the monumental kitsch-ery of “Que linda!” it became obvious that Brazilians have taken the psychedelic, fluorescent, pseudo, synthetic to new heights where it stands in a category of its own. One which is considered Art. And I love it.

Last year we were all supplied and delighted by a free gift; a nifty little bendy fan which came in handy in the thermogenic heat. This year someone’s ingenious creativity went overboard. A flat-pack paper square revealed an odd shaped cardboard object that I thought was an origami samba dancer you could fiddle with in those boring moments in between samba schools and the next bout of fireworks, song, dance and stupefying visuals. But no. It was a Higgfly; a female urinary conductor. A cardboard funnel (complete with sanitary product pink roses) through which women could pee through standing up. At last women had something useful to help them pee on the street  just like geezers. How thoughtful of the organisers. I didn’t spot one in use though. But the instructions were amusing, graphically showing the funnel wedged up a profile of a woman’s woopsie.

Despite the mud, blood and Higgflys, the faux pas were camouflaged by a spectacular patina of glitter and glamour and on the final day, Cariocas were glued to their TV sets for the big vote for the winning school. The beach and streets were deserted as the TV sets blared in unison from the laundries, bars, restaurants, juices bars, vets and kilo joints. And everyone held their breath. Then, for the fifth time in six years, Beija Flor was declared champion of Brazil‘s carnival.

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