Rio’s City Hall’s balance sheet shows that 4 million people participated in parades on the streets of Rio by 316 samba marching bands (“blocos”) between Saturday, February 18, and Ash Wednesday (jumping and dancing Carnaval is “folia,” participants are called “foliões,”).
The most popular bloco was the traditional (94 years of existence) Cordão da Bola Preta, which meandered through the center of the city with an estimated 2 million foliões in tow.
One thing about Carnaval in Rio is that official dates have little importance. Thus, the whole thing (folia) begins officially on a Saturday – this year on February 18 – even though blocos had been parading and foliões dancing and jumping throughout the city since January 20.
The official end of celebrations is Ash Wednesday even though there will be parades every day this week until Sunday (over the weekend, there will be no less than 36 parades – 21 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday).
One of the last blocos to parade is the very popular Monobloco that will probably attract around a million or so foliões Sunday morning on Avenida Rio Branco in the center of town.
One of the founders of a neighborhood bloco, Worm’s Groin (Virilha de Minhoca), Celso Ribeiro, says that the spirit of street Carnaval as practiced by such blocos, far from the center of the city, is peace and joy (along with a little irreverent mocking of conventions, he might add).
The Virilha has paraded in Bangu, in the northern area of Rio, for 34 years.
Ribeiro explains that it was an offspring of a musical group that was an offspring of a well-known bloco in Penha (another borough in northern Rio), Snake’s Armpit (Sovaco de Cobra).
“But we were not Sovaco, so we humbly formed our own bloco, Virilha,” says Ribeiro, adding: “For the first time this year a new bloco, Only Shins (“Só-Ca-Ne-Las”), paraded with sons, daughters, nephews and nieces or even grandchildren of Virilha foliões. That is how it works with neighborhood blocos: they give birth to new blocos.”
In the Santa Tereza area, another really satirical group, known as the Carmelitas, (this, of course, is an order of Catholic nuns who definitely do not participate in the folia) paid homage to the driver of the Santa Tereza trolley car who died along with five others in an accident in August.
In Ipanema, an upper class area in the southern part of the city, the bloco Rio Maracatu, with dozens of foliões on percussion and many thousands more dancing in costumes, presented a bit of popular folklore from the Northeastern region of Brazil (specifically, Pernambuco).