(Rio de Janeiro) “There’s a lot of impatience and a lot of fatigue,” Pedro H. Gaspar confesses. “Fatigue” for this dancer comes from months of grueling rehearsals. To sum up that “impatientness” in one word, it means that the Rio Carnival is finally starting.

“We often talk here about the pre-carnival tension that all members of the TPC, or samba school, feel,” he explained to AFP. This 30-year-old young black man, with a big smile and obvious grace, is the “Pasista” of Unidos de Villa Isabel, one of 12 prestigious schools that parade on Sunday and Monday nights. He is one of the

According to the established expression, “Carnival is here.” These days, musical processions called “brocos” are held, sometimes small, sometimes large-scale, spread throughout the city, where crowds in improbable disguises gather, drunk with joy and beer, to sway to various rhythms. come.

But like every year, the party culminates in a extravagant parade at the Sambodrome, a legendary venue with 70,000 seats, alongside a street carnival. The concrete monument, signed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

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Samba has a history of 100 years. And this music, invented by the black community descended from African slaves who were forcibly taken to Brazil, remains as creative and explosive as ever.

Monumental floats, glitteringly costumed dancers and a powerful rhythm section defend the school’s colors in fierce competition.

“Basic questions”

But beyond performance, Carnival still demonstrates its political and social relevance.

The show not only celebrates lesser-known Black figures and traditions with African roots, but also pays homage to Indigenous communities.

The Salgueiro School will celebrate the resistance of the Yanomami people, an Amazonian people who are experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis due to illegal gold placer mining. If this drama reached terrifying proportions under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), his left-wing successor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sought to reverse the situation. I’m struggling.

“The samba school parade continues to be a place where Brazil thinks about itself,” enthuses anthropologist Mauro Cordeiro, an expert on samba culture. “Today’s Carnival of Carioca is a forum where Brazil’s fundamental political and social issues are discussed.”

If there’s room for levity – the 2024 parade’s hit song is already dedicated to the cashew, a fruit whose juice is as delicious as the famous nut – Carnival is a serious affair .

And while the Carioca festival generates considerable revenue (forecasts say 5.3 billion reais (1 billion euros) in tourism revenue this time), it will not escape concerns on the day.

Rio is plagued by crime, but authorities have announced they will deploy thousands of police officers throughout the region, particularly around the Sambodrome, during Carnival.

Another serious problem is the outbreak of dengue fever, a tropical disease that has already killed around 50 people in the country. The city has declared a health emergency and mosquito spray will be distributed to parade goers.

inheritance

This does not diminish its appeal and does not prevent great samba schools rooted in working-class neighborhoods from gaining the upper hand. For several days, the periphery takes center stage.

Mangueira is one of them. Its name comes from the favela founded 96 years ago, just a stone’s throw from Brazil’s football hall of fame, the Maracana His Stadium.

This year, the school, which raised its green and pink flag, decided to honor the samba icon by telling the story of Alcyone’s childhood, as he proudly celebrates the 50th anniversary of his career this year.

The star co-founded the Mangueira branch dedicated to the artistic training of children 36 years ago. Barbara Rachel, 30, who was born in the favela herself and is a graduate of the school, is now cultural director.

“It’s so moving because Alcyone is someone who left a mark on our lives. And she not only influenced my life, but the lives of an entire generation that is with me.” said the young woman, whose students will take turns parading as part of the children’s carnival.

The next generation is ready. Alcyone says in one of his most famous songs: “Please don’t let Samba die.”

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