RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s nationwide Carnival celebration continued on Sunday with a marked feminist accent emphasized by a band that drew almost half a million people to a street concert in Rio de Janeiro.
“Our power is everywhere, even at Carnival. We’re joining hands, united, to inspire other women to be the owners of their lives and bodies, free and courageous,” Preta Gil, the daughter of popular singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil, said in addressing the crowd gathered right in the heart of Rio’s downtown.
The “Bloco da Preta” street concert, headlined by the singer, was held from the top of a truck leading a procession through the main avenues of downtown Rio accompanied by a percussion band made up almost entirely of women.
Many of the participants displayed signs or stickers stuck to their outfits reading “No means no,” the phrase coined some years ago to emphasize the right of women to reject the advances of men, even – and perhaps especially – at a festival like Carnival, known for its almost limitless and hedonistic excesses.
Other “blocos,” as the street bands that for many represent the spirit of Brazil’s Carnival are known, catered more to kids and teens, like “Gigantes da Lira,” which drew some 4,000 people to a parade or street party-procession headed by huge dolls.
Women also headed the “Bloco do Baixo Augusta” parade in Sao Paolo, which this year was dedicated to singer Eliza Soares, one of the most significant voices in Brazilian popular music and who – at age 89 – joined the street festival amid a persistent drizzle.
Just as occurred on Saturday, the blocos hit the streets in almost all Brazilian cities and are intending to keep the music and the partying going nonstop until at least Feb. 26, Ash Wednesday.
However, many cities already have dozens of parades scheduled for next weekend at the supposed end of the festival that – in Rio – will culminate on Feb. 23-24 with the much-anticipated, colorful and exciting samba school performance parades in the city’s Sambodromo.
Despite the fact that this year’s tickets for the samba school parades cost at least $90, a prohibitively high outlay for many Brazilians, estimates are that those two days will see about 120,000 people flocking into the Sambodromo to witness the iconic contest.