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"ORDEM E PROGRESSO" & WHY YOU CAN`T STOP THE “CARNAVAL”
once read a quote “Brazil is a country for the future and it
always will be”. Whilst appearing somewhat harsh there is a
sentiment in the throwaway line that does have more than a grain of
truth to it.
visited the country on half a dozen occasions it is a place hell
bent on having a great party no matter what else is going on around
it. So it was in February 2007 that I found myself heading once
again to Rio de Janeiro for “Carnaval” as Brazilians call it and
landing in a City of extremes where property rentals are governed by
“Bala Perdidas” (stray bullets) and the majority of cash points
close at 10.00pm due to “Sequestro Relampagos” (short or
lightning kidnappings). Prices shoot up during Carnaval but one
thing in Rio that always remains incredibly cheap is life.
I landed the City was in uproar after a car had been hijacked by
youths. A mother and child in the front had been forced out of the
car at gunpoint, but her other child a six year old boy was strapped
into a back seat chair and the mother could not get him out. The
youths tried to push him out of the car but João Hélio Fernandes was dragged 7 Km and his death had
created great anger in the City. One of the youth’s fathers had
handed his son into the police, but being under 18 he could not be
charged for manslaughter under Brazilian law.
officially starts at 6pm on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and
finishes on the Wednesday with people returning to work on the
Thursday. The Wednesday preceding the Carnaval the City awoke to the
news that Guaracy Paes Falcao,
42, vice president of the parade group Salgueiro, was shot and
killed in his car before dawn while leaving the group's headquarters
near Tijuca, a middle-class neighbourhood surrounded by slums on the
city's north side. He was with a woman who was also shot dead.
This murder took place on the same day as João Fernandes
funeral and 1million Carioca`s descended on Centro (The downtown
financial district) in a march for peace and to show support for the
young boys parents. The march culminated in a peace rally at Candelária
ironically the scene of the murder of a number of street children in
July 1993, later highlighted in the Film/Documentary “Bus 174”
when Sandro do Nascimento took a bus hostage in June 2000.
exactly the same time as England football fans were been let down by
their team against Portugal in Euro 2000, Do Nascimento entertained
Brazil. He reminded millions of Brazilians of the carnage at which
he had been present, but survived 7 years earlier, as the hijacking
was networked live across Brazilian TV. His reward and punishment
for the death of hostage Geisa Gonçalves was death by asphyxiation
in the back of a police vehicle. But his real crime was the
humiliation he had heaped on the Brazilian security forces.
and especially Cariocas have a great ability to put blinkers up to
social problems and get on with life. Perhaps this is out of
necessity as the majority lives in Favelas and does so overlooking
it was under these shadows on Friday 16th February at 6pm
that Carnaval 2007 officially started.
the North East of Brazil, mainly Bahia have danced historically to
Forró this has to a large extent been superseded in popularity in
the 1990`s by Axé (pronounced ash-ay) with artists such as Daniela
Mercury, Chiclete Com
Banana and Ivete Sangalo taking Brazil by storm. However, Rio de
Janeiro during Carnaval dedicates the whole time to Samba with even
Bossa Nova taking a place on the backburner. Forró and Axé will be
heard in clubs but the music of the streets is Samba as hundreds of
Blocos take place throughout the City. A Bloco is a street
procession whereby you follow a large vehicle with a huge sound
system and local people from the neighbourhood play along. I
followed my first Bloco from Botofogo to Copacabana as a friend’s
daughter played drums in the procession. The pride with which the
people participate in these Blocos cannot be emphasized enough but
the serious business takes place downtown at the Sambadrome.
is a very serious business with two leagues made up of Samba Schools
which practice every week for 12 months of the year in the “Escola
de Samba” (local Samba schools) and on the Friday and Saturday
night of Carnaval the “2nd Division” parade and on
the Sunday and Monday the “Premier league” parade. Each school
is judged and relegation and promotion takes place with there being
a Champion. In Britain it is probably thought this is just a large
version of what takes place at Notting Hill but nothing could be
further from the truth. Big business has now moved in as well as the
“Jogo do bicho” with the 2006 winner Vila Isabel funded by a
Venezuelan oil company. Rumours are rife of bribery and corruption
and the last school to parade always complain as they parade as the
sun comes up and therefore feel the spectacle for them is tarnished
by the fact that they do not parade under floodlights. This year
this was compounded as television coverage could not start until 9pm
as “O Globo” the channel showing the parade live across Brazil
had to fit in “Big Brother Brasil.” Whilst not owned by Murdoch,
yet, it is a Channel which in the past has been shrouded in
political controversy. So there are similarities.
Rio de Janeiro during carnaval the wealthy area of Leblon becomes
deserted as locals leave the City, for the countryside of Petropolis,
Ipanema turns gay and Copacabana fills up with working girls from
Sao Paolo, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. Therefore the place to head
to sample real Carioca life is Terreo de Samba.
the parading takes place at the Sambadrome which is in Centro. Next
to the sambadrome however, is Terreo de Samba and this fills up with
locals from the Favelas as they listen to music, drink beer and
watch the fireworks from the Sambadrome. For 5 Reais or just over
one pound sterling you can sit in a large fenced in area with the
locals and take in the atmosphere surrounded by tight private
security, not police. Although in 2005 when a fight broke out
between transvestites and locals started pelting them with plastic
chairs I looked on as the Security stood by with little effect. The
atmosphere is electric with young and old partying until sunrise.
the Sambadrome the security is made up of both Civil and Military
police in armed vehicles and it did cross my mind how they were
going to control the crowd with semi automatic weapons but I am
pretty sure they had a plan should a problem arise, unfortunately
yet another major disaster waiting to happen. If you wished to watch
the parading itself tickets are available from touts for 20 Reais
upwards, about 5 pounds. It is possibly the only event in the world
I have ever attended where I did not come across a scouse ticket
tout, but give it time.
my final night in Rio I was pulled over at a police road block
between Copacabana and Ipanema. There were several police cars with
a number of police carrying automatic weapons. The officer in charge
searched me and told me he was looking for “drogas”, drugs. I
was going to tell him that if he turned 180 degrees and walked for a
quarter of a mile through Praça
General Osório he would come to a favela and he’d find
plenty there. The fact he bore a remarkable resemblance in stature
and look to Noel Blake as well as the hardware his colleagues were
carrying had an influence on me keeping my thoughts to myself.
drugs are found you go up a side street and for about 300 Reais (70
or 80 quid) you can avoid having your details passed onto the
Federal Police and therefore your passport remains untarnished. I
had my passport photocopied as ID which I produced on request, if
you haven’t Noel Blake and his mates will come back to yours for a
wander whilst you get your passport; this is to be avoided at all
for the Carnaval I have always found it very overrated and not the
best time to be in Rio. But as a mate of mine said, “You don’t
live a tin hut though do you” and he has got a point. In short it
is a good six days of partying for people who lead very difficult
lives and a time for them to let off steam, they are more than happy
for you to join them.
certain things are lost in translation between Portuguese and
English, you have to admit Brazilians do have a sense of humour.
Every time I look at that flag and see the words “Order and
Progression” emblazoned across it I have to smile. Don’t be put
off by bad press reports, sure Rio is dangerous, but where in the
world isn’t? It’s a great country with a lot to offer, but
coming back to this year Carnaval, there are winners and there are
losers like in any major competition. This years winners were the
Samba School “Beija – Flor”, who could bask in glory, but will
be practicing for 2008 as you read this.
years losers, well without doubt that has to be the Fernandes
and Falcao families.
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