Ketula Melo, 38, a muse in the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school dressed as the Iemanja deity of the Afro-Brazilian religions, was excited to be back at the Sambadrome.
“These two years have been terrible. Now we can be happy again,” Melo said as she was about to enter Friday night in a black and white costume made of shells that barely covered her body.
The Sambadrome in Rio has been home to the parade since the 1980s and is a symbol of Brazil’s Carnival festivities. During the pandemic, it was a shelter for more than 400 homeless people and also served as a vaccination station.
Brazil confirmed the first cases of the coronavirus in mid-March 2020, just after that year’s carnival festivities ended. The 2021 edition was quickly canceled due to the emergence of the delta variant. According to Our World in Data, an online research site, more than 663,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, the second highest among any country in the world.
Entire communities gather around the competing samba schools, whose shows are not only a source of pride but also employment, as the preparations require countless seamstresses, welders, costume designers and more. There are months of rehearsals for dancers and drummers so that participants can learn the melody and lyrics of their school’s song. The pandemic turned the way of life of these samba schools upside down for two years.
Sao Paulo also kicked off the carnival parade on Friday evening. Both cities’ parades usually take place in February or March, but their mayors jointly announced in January that they would postpone Carnival for two months due to concerns about the spread of the ommicron variant.
The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has fallen sharply since then, and more than three-quarters of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated, according to the country’s health ministry. Local authorities have allowed full attendance football matches since March.
Rio authorities said earlier this week that those attending the parade must be able to show proof of vaccination, but media reports showed that visitors had no problems getting tickets or entering the Sambadrome without showing the required documents. .
A grandstand seat costs about $50, and the most expensive seats can cost upwards of $1,260. Going out in one of the samba schools takes a lot of tourists, but it’s often free for people who are involved in the parade all year round, such as 66-year-old Juciara do Nascimento Santos. She was one of the revelers who started this year’s parade with the samba school Imperatriz Leopoldinense.
“We had to take care of ourselves during this period so that we can celebrate life here today,” says Santos, who has been parading with Imperatriz Leopoldinense since 1984. This time she was in the baianas section, often reserved for the oldest women of any samba school. Many of these samba schools reported losing many of their baianas to the virus.
For those unwilling to pay for the entrance fee, there were street parties all over Rio – despite the fact that City Hall had not given permission to proceed, citing insufficient time to prepare. Some organizers didn’t care, arguing that celebrating Carnival was not dependent on permission from the authorities, and revelers took to the streets in droves.
Savarese message from Sao Paulo.