Carnaval, it seems to me, is a straight out release of what we hold inside at different times. When you stay professional at work, when you follow social conventions, or when you’re waiting for that next step in your life, your animalistic side becomes more frustrated from being tamed over and over. That need to vent and unleash, to rebel, Carnaval offers that opportunity. And this is not just an opportunity where your feelings are without company. On the contrary, during this festival everyone is right there with you and that funneling of animalistic drives causes outbreaks in designated locals throughout the city. I stayed in Rio for a week and for 5 of those days the city was transformed into a concrete jungle.
The origin of this festival stems from Catholicism with the goal of celebrating the start of a soul cleanse up until the day Christ died. As a result, for 40 days after Carnaval, Catholics are supposed to go to church more often, not eat meat, and try to “sin” less overall. On the other hand, in Carnaval this signals the last chance, or the ideal time to indulge and rebel. For example then, the music is loud all night, people dress expressively, and homosexuals and lesbians make out for extended periods of time in open areas. Seriously, for more than an hour sometimes. We timed while we danced. Lol.
The main Carnavale event in each city is a parade held in a stadium. In Rio at least, they call the stadium the Sambadrome. I didn’t learn any Samba, but I perceived it as an African version of Cali Salsa as there is more bounce in it and your arms move a lot more. However, you can feel the African influence with the heavy drums and loud chanting, so its fun to dance even without Samba. The parade in the stadium consists of floats, people in themed costumed dancing on top of, in front of, or behind the floats, and a woman, sometimes a man, dressed as a harpy to lead each charge. It’s very sophisticated, loud, and goes to 6am in the morning. What happens outside of the sambadrome each day and night are street versions of this parade. First, a deep base and cluster of snare drums will start playing in a square, people then hear the music and gather around it, and when the squared has swelled with people, a march begins. As the band moves, the people in their own costumes follow and chant loud Portuguese lyrics spontaneously. Sometimes people don’t wait for a march and will start chanting and banging the doors on the subway on the way there. Haha
In my visit to Rio I also went to the “Copacabana” and “Ipanema” beaches which were crowded, but still beautiful. There’s plenty of “Footvolley” going on, and it’s funny to watch the kids run away from the strong waves. Also, the 360 view from “Cristo Redentor” is captivating because you can see the three parts of the city, separated by rolling grassy mountains and bordered by the Atlantic ocean. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, but still different and so even when I tried to learn some in order to communicate my eating diet, I relied more on Spanish, English and French afterwards. It was satisfying to still feel versatile though in a foreign and loud place. On the other hand though, I felt like I missed out on some experience especially during the chants as I could only guess and not contribute as much as I wanted. In any case, again I experienced first-hand the multiple values of knowing multiple languages.
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