RIO DE JANEIRO – Millions of Brazilians and tourists danced this Saturday in the streets of the country’s main cities to the rhythm of the street bands on the first official day of this year’s Carnival, undeterred by the rain falling on the festivities in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The Cordao da Bola Preta “bloco” or troupe, which paraded through the streets of downtown Rio de Janeiro, attracted the biggest crowds, while the Galo da Madrugada bunch enlivened a nine-hour party in the historic center of Recife.
These two troupes are competing in the Guinness Book of Records for the title of the world’s best Carnival troupe and traditionally parade the Saturday of Carnival.
Despite the fine rain that fell all day on Rio de Janeiro, the Cordao da Bola Preta attracted close to 1.5 million people to a parade that began Saturday morning in the downtown Quince Plaza and ended almost six hours later on Presidente Antonio Carlos Avenue.
Subway stations along the parade route were turned all day into passageways for thousands of people joining in the party and for others who were saying their goodbyes because of exhaustion or alcohol.
The Galo de Madrugada bloco, for its part, attracted close to 2 million people with a parade that went on for a little more than nine hours and had 30 “electric trios,” as the trucks are known that come equipped with powerful loudspeakers and platforms that carry entire orchestras.
In the first Brazilian Carnival since sexual harassment was branded a crime, two gigantic floats broadcast messages of respect for women.
“Enjoy yourselves, kiss on the mouth, make love, but don’t forget the condom. Be happy but above all, respect women and don’t forget that when they say no, they mean no,” the director of Bola Preta (Black Ball), Pedro Ernesto Marinho said from atop the truck leading the 101st parade of this bloco.
According to news media reporting Carnival activities, at least 5 million people enjoyed the troupes parading on the first day of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife and Belo Horizonte.
In Rio de Janeiro alone, some 70 blocos planned parades this Saturday.
The troupes vary from small neighborhood bands that play their music in the streets to entertain the local residents to giant groups that use more than one big truck carrying percussion orchestras with dozens of musicians.
These troupes guarantee free entertainment for anyone who wishes to follow them through the streets, unlike the luxurious samba schools, which parade in enclosed areas that collect entrance fees.