Thursday, March 5, 2015

Carnaval in Southern Brasil: Novo de novo

As a lovely friend described of her years of growing up in Brazil and actively participating in Carnaval festivities: Brazilian Carnaval celebration is a reminder to enjoy everyday and bring your light to an increasingly dim world. Briefly set aside the burdens of life and heavy judgments. It is a time to take down walls of social normalcy, mingle with people from all walks of life, form friendships, and share love (if only fleeting).

Yes, I prefer endless nature to endless crowds, salty waves of ocean water to sound waves of loud music, a nice cup of green tea to beer, but there is something about cultural celebrations that ignites my more festive side which is exactly what Carnaval did.

New year. New cities. New adventures. I have this feeling that I could celebrate Carnaval every year for the rest of my life and still feel as if it were an entirely new experience. That is because there isn’t just one type of Brazilian Carnaval celebration.

Throughout the country there is a myriad of ways to commemorate the literal “farewell to meat" and although samba culture may be somewhere in the heart of each celebration, I have experienced that there is far more to Carnaval than Rio de Janeiro or scantily clad women in heels that strike like lightening. 

I find the origins of Brazilian Carnaval to be absolutely stunning- a beautiful and lively cultural mash-up that can be quite reflective of the population. Cities heavily influenced by Portuguese, West African, German, Indigenous, or Italian heritage for example may have their own take on the country’s biggest celebration.

This year, I celebrated Carnaval in a couple of different cities in the south of Brazil- each with their own flair. In one city, I spent the day getting lost in a crowd of unfamiliar faces at an open street concert. The afternoon started off with little trace of the forthcoming Carnaval activities but as the afternoon carried on, the street was met with all types of characters- mermen, superheroes, and I swear I gave a horse head a peck on his/her muzzle.

Samba played loudly from musicians performing atop a high charged truck known as a trio elétrico. I danced danced danced alongside friends both new and old. My hands reaching towards the sky as confetti and bubbles unremittingly fell onto my feather clad, war-paint ridden body. My clumsy, uncoordinated feet stumbled in attempts to keep up with the rhythmic patterns of the tamborims and surdos accompanied by the agogôs, cuíca, and all that is the vivacious sound of samba.

On the final day of Carnaval, I traveled to another city where I was absolutely blown away by the magnitude of the celebration. I had been to this little Portuguese settled town before and I was quite charmed by its quaintness and tranquility but during Carnaval, the city transformed. I arrived in the beginning of the night and the streets were absolutely buzzing with people of all ages. Children flocking together, causing minor havoc and enjoying different sweets, families sitting along the busy streets perched in beach chairs and enjoying the sights before them, people of all ages happily engaged before the commencement of what could best be described as a “people’s parade”.

At around midnight, a loud banging of drums indicated that the procession was about to begin. The temporary street dwellers cleared to the surrounding sidewalks and all that could be seen at the end of the street was a file of brilliantly dressed dancers of all ages accompanied by dazzling floats and musicians. The overarching theme of this “escola de samba” parade was magic in every form and oh what a spectacular theme it was. Each group of performers told a different story about magic, from lighthearted fairytales to ominous fables- even Harry Potter made a brief appearance amidst the sea of samba dancing witches and wizards.

After about 45 minutes, the choreographed dancers made their exit but it was hardly the end of the procession. Immediately following behind the final performers, the crowd began to join in the parade as if they were summoned to take over the streets with their own style of dance. Suddenly, I found myself completely submersed in a sea of people. Open space could not be seen for miles. People talking, dancing, singing, drinking, laughing, flirting- the night had officially begun. I was definitely out of my element and enjoying every minute of it. Again, I found my feet trying to keep up with the rhythm of the music but they simply could not. However, the rhythm of my heart was finally beginning to catch on and that was all I needed.

With all of the colors, endless high energy, kind hearts, and cultural harmony, I found Carnaval to be nothing short of a four day celebration overflowing with inspiration.

 With infinite love,

The Frohemian

(The photos in this post were taken by me and my amazingly talented friend Cez)

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