This ritual represents the change in the status quo. However, it is still to be seen how much partying will take place during the first Carnival since 2002.
Starting Wednesday night, samba schools' intricate floats and feather-adorned dancers will be seen on packed bleachers. City Hall denied authorization to the over 500 street parties that are common in the city. It claimed it did not have enough time to prepare.
This dissonance has led to debate about whether City Hall is suppressing Carnival's essence and if denizens should take over the streets. Some organizers don't care what is allowed. They will show up anyway -- part party, part demonstration -- and Mayor Paes has stated that he will not deploy the Municipal Guard.
Paes replied to a reporter's query after giving King Momo his key. "City Hall won’t impede people being in public spaces and from celebrating but it’s impossible that it occur at such (larger) size."
His comments were similar to those made on Sunday by samba schools as they finished assembling their floats. In the 1980s, the competing schools were paraded from the streets to the Sambadrome and became Rio's most iconic Carnival display for thousands of people willing to pay for tickets. The parades will continue through Sunday night.
The Sambadrome's shadow is home to the "blocos", a group of free parties that stream through the streets and into public spaces. Many of their members enjoy subverting the established order. Blocos are a mix of glamour and glitter, making up for the lack of glamour with glitter and grit. The costumes range from outrageous to extravagant, and sometimes make clever digs at authority figures.
Blocos had been largely lost as samba schools took the spotlight. However, their resurgence during the 1990s didvetail with redemocratization following two decades of military dictatorship according to Andre Videira (a sociology professor at Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, who has studied blocos).
They began to take on forms similar to U.S. brass band, but without sound trucks or drum section that would hinder mobility. Blocos could freely roam.
Videira stated that they are "important vehicles for the democraticization of access culture and access the city."
More than 150 blocos rejected City Hall's establishment of a registration process in 2010. Many saw it as an attempt formalize something that was already informal. Videira stated. They insist that celebrating Carnival is not contingent upon authorities' consent -- neither this year nor the next.
Numerous musicians marched through downtown on April 13th, blasting their drums and banging their drums. Ocupa Carnival organized the euphoric protest. This group had days earlier written a manifesto decrying perceived attempts to commodify or repress blocos. It was signed by more that 125 people.
Karen Lino, 29, stated that it was important to collectively pressure the government so Carnival is recognized as and supported like the should be." She was wearing a jaguar print outfit that reflected her role in the Friends of the Jaguar bloco. She is also part of the group that will take Viradouro the reigning champion samba school through the Sambadrome. It is hypocritical of the government not to pay attention to other sectors.
, a columnist for O Globo in the city's main newspaper wrote Tuesday that City Hall was absolving itself of any policymaking responsibility by leaving blocos unresolved.
Leo Aversa wrote that "apparently prohibition didn't make sense, as the blocos are the soul of carnival and are fundamental to the city's spirit," "If he (Paes), believes it is impossible, it's not possible, then the only coherent thing to do would be to ban it. If he believes there is no problem, he should be convicted.
Paes retorted on Twitter, "The right thing is not to have blocos!" They're not authorized, and we won’t have the party's structure."
According to city figures, Carnival's 2020 edition saw 7 million revelers party in "Street Carnival", just before COVID-19 arrived Brazil. People are packed together, they share their bottles and people kiss. This is to say, it's a paradise for party-goers and a breeding ground for viruses.
Blocos didn't want to be there last year when Brazil's second COVID-19 outbreak took shape. It was , the first time in a century that Rio's pre-Lenten celebrations were cancelled. and Paes presented the city's keys to health workers rather than King Momo. Paes suggested that blocos should be restricted to controlled, enclosed areas to verify proof of vaccination.
This idea was not in line with the free-spirited nature of blocos, and some organizers expressed concern that it would be a new attempt to "privatize Carnival" by linking them with corporate sponsorship. Most demurred. People want to party, despite the fact that COVID-19 deaths have been at a near-zero rate for more than a month. Some blocos were present last weekend. Schedules of their unannounced performances are widely circulated on WhatsApp.
Cecilia de Moraes spoke for Rio's tourism promotion office. She said that it takes months to coordinate and provide fencing, portable toilets, and additional dump trucks in order to stop street parties becoming party foes.
"When things (with COVID-19), improve and people live, the blocos can see that it's going well and they want to get out. She said that we cannot flip a switch.
Rio's larger blocos, which attract tens to hundreds of thousands of revelers each year, are now in line. To limit disruption, they use sound trucks and rely upon the city for traffic detours and garbage cleanup. Rita Fernandes is the leader of the Sebastiana blocos association. She said that they have set a fire to 2023.
"We don't want out at all costs, our sponsor canceled and we were discouraged omicron. Fernandes called to confirm that everything was eventually demobilized. "We don’t believe the city can support more than four days of the amount of blocos that are there. We don't want chaos in the city."
Others, such as Tomas Ramos (a saxophonist who was part of the group that organized April 13's protest), aren't convinced. He pointed to a city ordinance last year that deemed support for Carnival a "guaranteed" right. City Hall did not have a plan B to make sure that Carnival was a success without Ambev, the Brazilian brewer.
Ramos shouted at musicians and spectators who gathered at Rio's municipal theatre, calling them to join him for full-bore Carnival celebrations.
He boomed, and the crowd agreed with him. We socialize dreams as they exploit reality!" The energy of rebellion will live on!