Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Carioca's First Carnaval Street Festival

With sleep still in my eyes, I stumble down to the corner one Sabado morning expecting to see a small band of local people celebrating a street Carnaval, one of many in the city. Instead I see a large samba band, a huge sound truck and hundreds of people in costume emerging from the shady borders of the street, including young and old dancers from Bahai performing in their traditional costumes. A group of young males wearing tight pink dresses dance among costumed females in their scanty plumage. Both sexes wear what can only be described as fantasy, as they march to the beat of their own drum, like Soshia Obama, parading as the US president.

The beer vendors on both sides of the street are doing well and soon I find a SQOL in my hand watching the crowd become one swirling tribe. It has achieved concentration. As if on cue, the music stops, The drummers take a breather. It is 45C at 10 in the morning. I’m down to beach wear. The break is just a space between the notes. Then suddenly the drums begin again and the mob contracts like a giant serpent and explodes into action. Several thousand faces are illuminated with smiles. The line between the crowd and the participants is merged into one electric samba.

In coming days I join two other parades. Again, the drumming and dancing pull me in with surprisingly ease. I am anonymous, a simple organism drenched in a flood of sweat between male, female, black, white and caramel enamel. I am swinging to a worldly synchronization I only half understand. The movement is chaotic, calling all to shed conformity.

We are a mob, cheek by jowl. The samba is seductive and pulls you in, but she is a fickle goddess and lets you go to your other life without a kiss. As the dance moves on I take a dip in the ocean to cool off. I dive under a dark wave, believing a conversion requires a baptism.
The wave throws me back on the beach, like an uninvited guest. I brush off the sand and listen to a beat in the distance.

Photos by Delma Godoy

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