Carnaval in Brazil 2016: Partying in Spite of it All

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I usually write a carnival feature this time of year, when all the festivities are happening.  Tonight being Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, is the grand finale.

Carnival/Carnevale/Carnaval is currently in full swing in Italy, Trinidad, New Orleans, and other countries (it was cancelled after the first day in Haiti). Then there is Brazil. Brazil holds the biggest carnival of them all, which figures because Brazil is an enormous country, as big as the U.S., with different states (just like the U.S.) each having its own musical and carnival style.

Unlike the other big carnival spots, especially Trinidad and New Orleans, Brazil is facing a ton of big problems — which you’d think would dampen the festivities that began last Friday and which continue through next Tuesday. Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, when people atone and get over their hangovers.

Brazil is in the midst of an economic crisis, President Djilma Roussef is up for impeachment, and the zika virus is on the move, spreading through sexual contact, urine, and even saliva. And carnaval in Brazil is full of kissing and hopefully condoms as well.

Brazilians have an attitude that is both optimistic and fatalistic, and have a way of shrugging off adversity. They’ve done it during the repressive dictatorship (1963-1985), during the scandal of the first democratically-elected president, Fernando Dollor de Mello, which resulted in his impeachment when it was discovered that he spent $13,000 on a French negligé for his mistress. When Hugh Grant got busted for having sex with Divine Brown in a car in 1995, the working woman launched a line of underwear in Brazil. Such is the mentality of our enormous southern neighbor.

As such, Carnaval 2016 throughout Brazil will serve as a welcome distraction from all the country’s woes. The various big Escolas de Samba (samba schools such as Portela, Mangueira, etc.) are still going full-blast, but the smaller, regional parades have had to cut back. The blocos (neighborhood samba parties) are also going strong. People don’t have as much disposable income as before the economic downturn happened a few years ago, but they are still out having fun, though some are avoiding crowds because of fear of the zika virus. Some have even been putting condoms over their mouths, as kissing a lot of people is a carnaval ritual. Still, the carnavale extravaganza will continue until Wednesday morning.

Check out this clip of Carnaval 2016 in Rio:

And a clip of a body-painting samba dancer:

For those of us who can’t make it to Brazil, a belated carnaval takes place here in Los Angeles on February 26th at the El Rey Theater. More info here.