February 11, 2012
Brazil and particularly Rio de Janeiro are frantically preparing for the greatest annual celebration, one of world fame and undoubtedly the most renowned Carnival celebration around the globe. In spite of some problems occurred in recent weeks with police strikes demanding better salaries and working conditions; the national and tourism authorities have assured the international community that these year’s Carnival festivities will be just as good and secure as in previous years. Thus, Brazil in general and Rio in particular are already beginning to receive a stunning flow of hundreds of thousands of visitors coming from all the continents, attracted by the uniqueness of these Carnivals, considered one of the world’s most remarkable massive events, loaded with a fascinating mix of cultural roots, in addition to color, music and a spirit of wild partying…
The traditional “Schools of Samba”, which spend almost the full year preparing, planning and rehearsing for the lively nocturnal parades; are in the final phase of getting their choreographies and amazing costumes ready. The competition involved to become the year’s best School of Samba, which includes great monetary and in-kind prizes, motivates the thousands of dancers to do their best to perform for the thousands and thousands of local and international spectators who will congregate along the increasingly famous “Sambodromo”, a wide boulevard especially designed years ago to be the main venue for the famous parades which will last for five non-stop days and nights. The incessant sound of the drums will be the motor to drive both performers and spectators into a dancing frenzy.
The authorities, as well as the airports, hotels, transportation services, restaurants and entertainment establishments are ready to efficiently cope with the gigantic flow of tourists expected to arrive into Rio and other Brazilian cities, to enjoy this major cultural expression.
Intriguing and symbol-filled characteristics which make the Brazilian Carnivals unique include the fact that most of the Samba Schools and their performers come from the poorer areas, the well known “favelas” or shantytowns, particularly from Rio; an expression which represents that feeling of freedom from the daily burdens of a difficult life. The Carnival celebrations, as a cultural expression also mean a time for changing the prevailing roles: the aristocrats and dominating classes would dress like commoners and, inversely, the poor would dress like princes and princesses, even if just for the duration of the Carnival. Also, many men will cross-dress as women and the other way around… In colonial days, the black slaves became actively involved in the celebrations and became free for three days. Nowadays, the considerably large black and “mulato” communities are an essential part of the Carnival fiestas, while the drums and the music bear much of the African culture, deeply rooted now into modern day Brazil.
The roots of Carnival are found way back in the ancient Roman and Greek Cultures, who celebrated the rituals to greet the spring across Europe with parties, masquerades and dancing in the streets. These traditions were brought over to the New World. However, over the years, the Brazilian celebrations have incorporated other elements, belonging to the country’s own African and Amerindian Cultures and roots. The resulting mix is one of total uniqueness.
Second to Rio’s Carnival festivities is the Carnival of Salvador da Bahia, in northern Brazil, one of a much deeper African content in every way, yet bearing in common the features of multicolor costumes and fancy dresses; frantic music and dancing and a spirit of liberation which provides the visitors with one of the most spectacular live, open-air and massive performances where cultural elements combine with a time of lively, sometimes wild, merriness, solidarity, friendship and a tribute to the more bodily pleasures of life… Whether Rio, Salvador or other locations throughout Brazil, Carnival is a lifetime memorable experience…
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