RIO DE JANEIRO — The COVID-19 pandemic forced Rio’s City Hall to cancel the famous Carnival parades and parties that last year attracted about two million tourists from around the world.
The parties take place during the four days of Carnival, at different times and locations. The Samba Schools’ Parade, the main attraction of the celebration, takes place over the weekend at the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, an area specially built for Carnival.
The 570-metre long Sambadrome is where the public enjoys the parade of dancers from competing schools, and judges choose a champion.
“The week before the carnival is usually a week that we exude carnival in essence,” said Thiago Lepletier, an administrator and Carnival director for G.R.E.S. Caprichosos De Pilares, a samba school.
Lepletier has to inspect and check if everything is right with the floats and costumes, as for organizers and planners, “there is no day or night, we do not sleep and food is scarce, only eating when we can.”
But celebrations were cancelled in January by Rio’s mayor, a decision that is bad for the economy and disappointing for people. The celebration itself brings a lot of money to the city with tourism and is responsible for employing thousands of people.
“In Carnival, there are people who work because they need it to survive, like any other job, there are those who work in carnival because they like it and those who work in the carnival as a secondary source of income,” Lepletier said.
This week, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said more than 1.5 million reais (about C$347,000) will be distributed to support samba schools and carnival parties.
There was talk in 2020 of moving the party to July 2021, a plan that was eventually discarded.
Marlize de Azevedo, a social worker, is one of the people who are passionate about Carnival. But as passionate as she is, Azevedo believes it would not have been a viable option to transfer it for July.
“If without officially having Carnival, people are lacking control, having clandestine parties and (with) full beaches every day, imagine in July with open borders and everyone coming to the city,” Azevedo said.
This year, she celebrated Carnival at home with her family, hoping next year she can enjoy it twice as much.
“Carnival is where I leave my pains and sorrows, where everyone is the same, there is neither rich nor poor, people want to kiss and hug, to use glitter and costumes,” Azevedo said.
Andre Pimentel, a dentist, is also passionate about Carnival. He works as a samba composer outside of work and runs one of the largest samba schools in Rio de Janeiro, G.R.E.S. Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel.
The dentist also hopes in the next Carnival, when the pandemic is over, people can “enjoy it much more, having more time to be organized I think it will be a better party than it was last year. Samba schools will have more time to collect money.”
Pimentel has been passionate about the celebration since he was a child. He and his wife Vanessa Oliveira have been parading at the samba school for 20 years because “carnival gives us a tremendous sense of freedom.”