Magical and mystical night to end Rio Carnival in style

In a sambadrome in a trance, this school in Duque de Caxias, a poor suburb north of Rio, highlighted Exu, the Afro-Brazilian deity of the party, often demonized by the neo-Pentecostal churches which support the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

– “Affirm my identity” –

Paraiso do Tuiuti, the first of six schools to parade overnight from Saturday to Sunday, had paid tribute to great black personalities from around the world, from Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, via RuPaul or Beyoncé.

“It’s really the right time to address this theme, to highlight black leaders, because we are living in a complicated period, with lots of prejudices,” Felipe Cordeiro, a 32-year-old hairdresser, told AFP. especially from Vitoria, more than 500 km from Rio, to parade.

“My heart is beating a thousand an hour, it will be my first time, I’m sure it will be magical,” he added, just before entering the dance.

And the magic was really there: spectators were amazed when they saw the superhero Black Panther appearing like lightning from a tank representing the fictional kingdom of Wakanda, thanks to an ingenious system of mechanical beams.

“The carnival in Rio is made by black people. Taking part in this celebration allows me to affirm my identity,” Camila Oliveira, a 32-year-old teacher, told AFP.

– Guarana and natives –

The carnival, which often represents all the diversity of Brazilian society, also gave pride of place to the natives, guardians of the safeguard of the Amazonian forest, one of the main ramparts against global warming.

It is full of natural riches, such as guarana, a fruit with many nutritional and therapeutic virtues, theme chosen by the Unidos da Tijuca school, with the refrain for its song: “Indigenous child, the forest is yours”

This is a hot topic, as deforestation has reached record levels since the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

The Unidos da Tijuca parade notably showed off a huge float with charred trees, with the heads of fire-breathing dragons representing the destroyers of the environment.

In another tank, representatives of indigenous peoples held up signs demanding the demarcation of new reserves for the natives and protesting against a bill carried by allies of the Bolsonaro government aimed at legalizing mining exploration on these territories.

The sambodrome has also seen a veritable menagerie of giant animals parade on the floats: crocodiles, jaguars, snakes and above all a larger-than-life white elephant, at least as imposing as a prehistoric mammoth.

Six other schools had already marched in the night from Friday to Saturday and they are therefore 12 in total to compete for the title of grand champion of the carnival, each parade being rated by the jurors according to nine criteria, such as the quality of the floats or the costumes. .

But for those who make a living from samba all year round, marching at this unusual time, two months later than originally planned, is already a great victory.

The carnival was simply canceled in 2021 and postponed this year because of the Covid.

“We had trouble organizing the parades this year. Because of the pandemic, we ran out of resources and there were delays in the delivery” of materials for making floats and costumes, laments Leandra Llopis, 47 years old, in charge of logistics for several samba schools.

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Magical and mystical night to end Rio Carnival in style

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