Although we knew we were going to Rio Carnival, we didn’t actually know what the carnival was until we arrived here last week and realised we needed to buy tickets! The main carnival event that you see on the TV and the parade in the film Rio is actually a competition between local Samba schools from the favelas of the city.
What is a favela?
A favela is a shanty town built by citizens that could not afford to buy houses. They are not temporary structures, they are made from bricks and concrete and these days most have running water and electricity. There are over 600 favelas in Rio alone, some containing up to 250,000 people, approximately 30% of Rio de Janeiro’s population live in favelas.
A lot of the favelas are built up on the hills and connect the main towns together, they have great views of the city and are essentially towns themselves. Most favelas have a samba school where the locals learn to dance and the carnival is a celebration and competition of the best samba schools in the city.
For most of the locals here carnival is a time to get together, have huge street parties and get very drunk! Last night as we were trying to call a taxi to get to the parade, there were thousands of people on the streets of Ipanema and most streets in Rio I imagine. To be honest we found it quite scary having that many people around, I guess it was mainly due to the fact we had already had things stolen so were very wary of everyone we passed. If you live in Brazil it is a very different story, it is the best time of the year.
We managed to get a taxi and went straight to the Sambadrome, it did take quite a long time to get through the sea of people in the taxi but we made it there in good time. We each grabbed a ‘Bobs Burger’ (an extremely popular chain over here) and a beer and sat down. The parade started at 9pm and I have never seen anything like it, it was amazing; the costumes, the floats, the music, the atmosphere, the beer!! I was dancing away taking photos and yes mum we did get a video of me doing some Salsa in the stadium 🙂
There were about 10 schools competing last night and there are another 10 or so tonight, we left a bit early as we wanted to make sure we got a taxi. It was definitely worth seeing!!