June 29, 2020

Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil Carnival history in Rio de Janeiro is supposed to have strong roots back to Europe with the festival of lent often being represented as the origin of Carnival, leaving the influence of Africa forgotten.

The Portuguese ‘conquestadores’ claiming Brazil, brought with them slave trading, increasing in the 17th, 18th and 19th century until 1888 when it was banned. By the early 19th century, over six million slaves had been brought to the Caribbean and South Africa. Enough to make their impact on brazil carnival culture and Rio de Janeiro Carnival history!

The first kind of Carnaval to reach Brazil was the Entrudo. This was a violent form of the lent festival with people dressing up in big shirts like the black workers used throwing thin wax spheres filled with perfume. The whole thing developed to preparing bad fruits with bad smelling liquids, terrorizing streets and breaking into houses, until the police had to step in the year 1853.

By 1860, the today’s Brazil Rio Carnival history begins to form. The upper classes celebrated the carnival in expensive and private environments, turning to the streets dressed in masks and costumes later in the evening. Those who couldn’t afford the balls was given masks to participate in the streets carnival. The days of Entrudo was over.

However, the influence of Africa may have an important role in the street carnival history. Carnival expresses a abstract kind of street theatre. The African style called for costumed bands, and for the merry-making focus to be outdoors, rather than indoors. Which is what we see with today's New World carnivals. The Egungun festival seen in Africa, during which every extended family honours its collective ancestors, all the members of an extended family lineage wear the same colours, thus constituting a "band," which is the defining feature of the carnival history of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Carnival history costumes also bear witness of African traditions. Feathers were frequently used by Africans in their motherland on masks and headdresses as a symbol of our ability as humans to rise above problems, pains, heartbreaks, illness — to travel to another world to be reborn and to grow spiritually. Today, we see feathers used in many, many forms in creating carnival costumes.

The carnivals reached a peak around 1930 when the samba schools started to emerge in Rio de Janeiro. The African heritage was further increased by Vargas subsidizing carnival themes based on patriotism. This meant bringing the heavy African drums back stimulating more festivities in the streets.

Under Vargas the Carnival was acknowledged and moved to the great central streets of Avenida Vargas in Centrol Rio. This caused massive traffic problems so in 1954 the Sambodrome was constructed for the pleasure of Brazilians and tourists.

By 1961 the samba school ‘Mangueiros de primeira estacao’ mounted great sound systems which completely revolutionized the samba experience with spectacular sound effects and rhythms. This time was in many ways the golden age for the schools.

Here is a short list of coming Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Carnival history:

Carnival Dates (Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday)

Rio Carnival 2021 dates: February 12th until February 16th
Rio Carnival 2022 dates: February 25th until March 1st
Rio Carnival 2023 dates: February 17th until February 21st
Rio Carnival 2024 dates: February 9th until February 13th
Rio Carnival 2025 dates: February 28th until March 4th
Rio Carnival 2026 dates: February 13th until February 17th
Rio Carnival 2027 dates: February 5th until February 9th
Rio Carnival 2028 dates: February 25th until February 29th
Rio Carnival 2029 dates: February 9th until February 13th
Rio Carnival 2030 dates: March 1st until March 5th

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