Brazilian Carnival

Floats at Rio de Janeiro Carnival

As a junior in at the University of Iowa, I feel like I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my life. I studied abroad for a summer in high school in Australia and I’ve taken a few family trips to England, France, Italy, and Mexico. But when I think about all the places I still want to see- I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface!  I am planning on studying abroad in Spain next semester and I am so excited to see Spain and travel around Europe on my own. My “places to go” list is endless! So I have decided to write this blog to add on to my list. I will be discussing festivals, celebrations, and unique practices throughout the world that I hope to one day witness and maybe inspire others to want to see!

This semester, I am taking a class for my International Studies major called Music in Latin America and the Caribbean. I’m not an extremely musical person but I’m now finding myself listening to Calypso music of Trinidad, Reggae from Jamaica and craving a visit to Brazil to hear and celebrate the Carnival and its music. This is why the first on my dream list is the Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Jeneiro (Carnaval in Portuguese). Brazil, a current member of the U.N. Security Council, represents Latin America and a mission of peace. For this and other reasons, Brazil is a country I hope to one day experience and know more about.

The Brazilian Carnival is an annual celebration that takes place all throughout Brazil (and many other parts of Latin America) – most famously in Rio de Janeiro. Carnival has roots back to the 1830’s, when Latin America imported the idea of masquerade balls from Europe and infused it with African and Amerindian traditions. The Carnival is a celebration of Lent; it lasts for the forty days before Easter- instead of abstaining from sin and extravagance, Carnival represents 40 days of indulgence. The streets are packed with people, music, and colors.

Each state has a slightly different way of celebrating Carnival; Rio de Jeneiro is most famous for their blocos or “blocks”, which are groups dressed in costume parading down the streets playing instruments. Each bloco represents a different neighborhood in Rio and has its own theme, costumes and style. There are countless blocos in Rio parading throughout the entire city. The parades consists of extremely elaborate floats, participants dressed in masquerade, samba music and dance, and an elected “King of Carnival” or Rei Momo. Unique to Brazil is samba music, traditionally played on strings and various percussion instruments. Samba is represented as part of Brazil’s national identity and in 2005 was named one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). UNESCO describes the title of Masterpiece as “an international distinction destined to raise public awareness of the value of this heritage”. Samba schools prepare all year for carnival and I imagine that during the festival, Samba music rings throughout the streets of Rio.

Carnival, with all its music and life, is number one on my list for a number of reasons: a chance to experience Brazil, South America, samba, elaborate floats, and everything that goes a long with that just to name a few. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to check the Carnival of Rio off my list after experiencing this unique celebration!

Laura Stoddard

Iowa UNA


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