Rio de Janeiro’s carnival parades took place on Sunday, featuring thousands of artists dancing along the avenue in the city. This event marked the culmination of weeks of colorful street parties known as “blocos” in Rio de Janeiro. The parades feature 12 samba schools competing for the title of carnival champions in two epic nights.
A crowd of 70,000 people applauded from the packed stands of the Sambodromo, the city’s parade venue, with millions more watching live on TV. Samba schools have their roots in the poor neighborhoods of Rio’s favela, and each parade tells a story, often dealing with politics, social issues, and history. This year, the parades include tributes to little-known heroes of Afro-Brazilian history and a celebration of the indigenous Yanomami people, devastated by a humanitarian crisis blamed on illegal gold mining in the Amazon.
Each samba school has 60 to 70 minutes to dazzle the 700-meter Marques de Sapucai, a parade avenue designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. The parades are evaluated by a panel of judges, who deduct potentially devastating fractions of points for various reasons. Putting together a show with more than 3,000 performers and a fleet of floats that defy gravity is no easy feat.
The parades have been especially political under Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who faced accusations of authoritarianism, racism, environmental destruction, and disastrous mismanagement of Covid-19. However, since leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returned to the presidency in 2023, the overall tone of the parades has been less politically charged.
The samba is one of the great symbols of Brazilian popular culture and of Rio. Today, the carnival is big business for the city, expected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year.