For about five days every February, almost all of Latin America stops and embraces Carnival, the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. I had the pleasure of experiencing Carnival in Rio three years ago, which was when I fell in love with the South America. This time around, I knew more about what to expect and had more friends in tow to partake in this incredible spectacle.
In Rio, the festivities really get going on Friday night when people start celebrating by socializing in the streets and on the beaches. They pour out of bars, restaurants and fruit stands all around town. Literally all around town – everywhere you go you see people dressed up in random grab – everything from angels to bees to “who knows what that’s supposed to be”. This goes on all the way through Tuesday night.
The main event is held at the Sambardomo in the center of town. This massive stadium was built specifically for these cultural parades. Sunday and Monday are the main events where six or seven samba schools proudly make their way through the stadium, each taking just over an hour and featuring hundreds of performers. They center around some type of theme like a historical figure or the culture of Rio, but all of them are busting with pride, color and samba. Schools are judged on their creativity, cohesiveness, costumes, choreography, timing etc. My favorite parts are the vivacious bedazzled women as well as the impressive bands with drums that you feel in your heart and hum for days to come.
After five days of celebration our bones were weary and we escaped to Florianopolis for some recovery time. However, our Carnival songs and stories will live in fondly in our memories forever.