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Will there be life after ‘Carnaval’?

11 Mar

So, here we are!

the popular choice: bright colors & lots of fun!

We’re another foreign service family, posted in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, a place showcasing a magical mix between the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and native Indian cultures. Attractive for its scenery with ocean islands, rivers and bridges, we’re in the middle of a cultural diversity, a place full of history and captivating for its touristic attractions. Somehow, this month I found myself (a working-around-the-clock mom of 3 kids under 6 years old) with enough energy to go out, buy party costumes for the kids’ school carnival festivities, and search for a cute clown outfit for my 3 month old baby. All happening during my scavenge hunts along the neighborhood streets! March has arrived, and we’ve lively experienced the largest street carnival our five pair of eyes have ever witnessed: the so-called Galo da Madrugada (“Rooster of the Dawn”) and the exuberant colors on the streets of Olinda!

This massive parade – The Galo – happens every carnival Saturday, in downtown Recife, capital of Pernambuco. Its creator’s, Mr Enéias Freire came up with the original idea for a street party around the late 70s; and since then, it has never stopped, nor decreased in size!

The Guinness Book of World Records assigns the Galo da Madrugada as the biggest carnival parade in the world, considering the number of participants. This year (2011), my husband and I were invited to watch the official opening (Friday evening), with governmental authorities, as well as the popular parade (Saturday) from the Mayor’s Official Box (“camarote”). At the “camarote”, besides watching the magnificent parade, it was possible to get your make up professionally done, or, if wanted, a relaxing massage while waiting for the brunch buffet!

Observing my American husband’s reactions to the spectacle, it seemed like he’d been blown away by the magnitude of the event, the sheer number of people, the music, the dancing, the party atmosphere… It was simply wonderful just standing up there and looking over the whole thing: the look on people’s painted faces, their smiles, their tears of joy and pride. Indescribable beauty – the number of participants is said to have been over 1,600,000 people!

one of Brazil’s all-time singers, Fafá de Belém, honoring the official ceremony on Friday; special guest for the Galo da Madrugada parade.

 

The Costumes

Yes! Here, you can definitely find and buy anything on the streets; the world is for sale: lots of little “bancas” (street shops) sell everything imaginable, from hula skirts to cowboy hats. From pirate family costumes to Samba Schools full gear. Outfits and suggestions for a 9-week-old baby, to bright appliqué dresses to a ninety year old! You name it, and, if not found right on the spot, believe me, somebody would surely recommend a professional who could tailor it down for you – all before the very first scream from the “Rooster of the Dawn” street parade! Vampires, fairies, columbines, members of the “The Justice League”, kids’ cartoons’ characters, former and current “Country presidents” and “government representatives”… all in one place.

 

Every single possible costume could be found among the party goers. Under one nation – the Brazilian Popular Street Carnival, partying rules are always respected, and everyone enjoys the festivities in peace. Joy surrounds the neighborhoods.

Colors are mixed with the majestic sounds of the African atabaques, the bangôs, guitars, drums, tubas. Cold beverages are sold throughout the path, specifically designed and isolated for the street party. Celebrities from Brazilian television and from the big screen are also present, blowing kisses, to a delirious crowd of frenetic fans.Painted faces, bright from the dripping sweat, reflect the sun light.

The heat does not prevent the people from dancing while following one of the 26 different fully decorated floats on the streets of Recife – this is the first and only “Galo da Madrugada”, a genuine representation of democracy, popular choice and why not say, the pure desire to just be happy, for 4 straight days..

Traditition

Festivities here start around December, just after Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations – as locals begin preparing for the official Carnival, which starts a week (or two, depending where you’re living) before Ash Wednesday. The pre-Carnaval parties usually consist of percussion groups practicing in local clubs, city streets and squares, and even Carnival ball masques. People begin working on the “giant dolls” who will be displayed and gain life during the main parade. The “giant dolls” walk, move their bodies and dance to the contagious sounds of frevo.

There are various rhythms: from native Indian and African Maracatu beats to Frevo and Samba. Carnival officially starts with the Galo da Madrugada, with endless parties in downtown Recife, attracting altogether as many as a million praters and observers, life myself.

There is a queen and there’s a king for Carnaval. They’re both elected by popular choice, during the several “balls”, which precede the Carnaval week. And, to “their countrymen’s honor and glory”, the “royal pair” makes its unique appearance during the main parade. Their exclusive float brings glamour and pride to their “loyal people”, and, why not say, to every other plebe representative, which is watching, mesmerized and enchanted.

manually operated “giant dolls” are brought to life

And, talk about Olinda, with its spectacular scene! Olinda (neighboring city, 15 minutes from Recife) is responsible for many of the pre-Carnaval festivities. Some, actually starting as early as the second week of January! They’re called prévias because they precede Carnival. Extremely vibrant and festive events, offering a sense of the real thing. My family was able to enjoy an array of shows and parades, with many of the city’s best Carnival groups, before and after the “official Carnaval”!

one of the many beautiful & bright streets of Olinda

 

Back to real life, after Carnaval…

Hummm… Ash Wednesday arrived. Officially, Carnaval is over, right? Not here! People just can’t stop partying, and dancing, and singing… Life is more colorful during Carnaval. Life has a different meaning, during Carnaval. For many, the obligation to head back to work and/or school on Wednesday brought a bitter taste to their mouths…. “Is there any way to skip reality and dive back into the glorious sea of people that came to life during the 4 days of Carnaval?” or “How will we survive when all the Aftermath celebrations are finally over?” many ask… Yes, there’s still a trace of comfort for those who are having a hard time facing reality: the weekend has arrived, and with it, the gorgeous sun rays over the Atlantic ocean, right there, by the Avenida Boa Viagem… There’s still hope – let’s enjoy the weekend at the beach, and very patiently, await for next year’s celebration. I, for one, am already thinking about my costume for the 2012 Carnaval… What about you?

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39 responses to “Will there be life after ‘Carnaval’?

  1. salope foufoune rasée

    June 23, 2014 at 8:10 am

    C’est un véritable plaisir de parcourir votre site internet

    Like

     
  2. Madhu

    February 21, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Seems like so much fun! Hope we can go there during carnival……someday!

    Like

     
    • 3rdCultureChildren

      February 21, 2012 at 7:58 am

      hopefully, you will, Madhu! Thanks for your kind comments… Still more ahead, this week… Too much to share in a single post! Too many images… 😮 hope you’re enjoying traveling thru carnival with us! 😮

      Like

       
  3. agogo22

    February 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Reblogged this on msamba.

    Like

     
  4. dorisrudddesigns

    July 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    What better place for color then Brazil? Beautiful.

    Like

     
    • 3rdcultchild

      July 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Hey Doris, couldn’t agree more! You find color here everywhere, anywhere… I feel like all my posts may have a hint of color! 😮

      Like

       
  5. Patti Kuche

    July 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    The colours are absolutely glorious with the brightness of so many smiles highlighting the fabulousness of the event. Would so love to go. One day!

    Like

     
  6. jfb57

    July 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Fantastic. I would love to see this!

    Like

     
  7. john tugano

    July 23, 2011 at 11:36 am

    A very lively and colorful festival.nice post.

    Like

     
  8. Mike Hardisty

    July 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    That’s a great collection of images and a good write-up to go with it, explaining everything as it does.

    Like

     
  9. ceceliafutch

    July 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Fantastic choices for this weekly photo challenge! They are indeed quite colorful. 🙂

    Like

     
  10. Joe

    June 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Not sure if this is where I post it, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAQUEL!!!! I know it’s early but: (1) since I was late w/ Chico, I figured that being early w/ your B-day salutations might balance things out and- more importantly (2) I’ll be on the road the rest of the week and the weekend. anyway, I hope you enjoy your B-day weekend. Sending a big hug to you and the whole fam!!!!

    Joe

    Like

     
    • 3rdculturechildren

      June 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      OHHHHH Joe…. 😮
      So sweet of you… thank you… still a little early, but you´re right… definitely you´re the first one!!!! For my 40th!!!! (pretty important, right?)
      Much Love from Recife!

      Like

       
  11. Janet Eckman

    April 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Raquel, you and Chico look so very happy. Thanks for sharing the pictures of such a fun time. You are a born writer. Janet

    Like

     
  12. Calogero Mira

    March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

     
  13. joe

    March 22, 2011 at 12:01 am

    WOW!!! That looks amazing! The colors and the people look so vibrant. Thanks for sharing Raquel. I hope you’re well! -JS

    Like

     
  14. Alexandra Monteiro

    March 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Raquel,
    Amei o blog! Super legal. Estou voltando pro Brasil em Maio. Quem sabe passamos o proxio Carnaval juntas?
    Bjs em todos.
    Alex

    Like

     
  15. Heidy solorzano

    March 21, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Love the blog!

    Like

     
  16. Nádia Gafur

    March 18, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Parabéns Raquel! Está muito bem, alias tudo o que fazes!
    Bjs e saudades

    Like

     
  17. Martina

    March 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Love it! Keep up the good work. 🙂

    Like

     
  18. Joanne

    March 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Great pictures, Raquel!

    I`m going to share them on my FB site. Thanks!

    Like

     
  19. Fabíola

    March 14, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Muito legal, Raquel!!! Parabéns!!

    Like

     
  20. oglesandobservations

    March 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

    What a great post! Glad to see your blog! 🙂

    Thanks, Jan. We decided to get our stuff together… Baby steps, baby steps…:)

    Like

     

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