RIO DE JANEIRO — While Rio de Janeiro’s renowned Carnival parade will go on, the city will cancel its street parties, the mayor said on Tuesday, to the dismay of millions of revelers who pour into the city’s public spaces every year to celebrate and wash away any sorrows in samba, sweat and beer.
The freewheeling public parties “won’t be possible,” Mayor Eduardo Paes said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It’s been decided: There won’t be street carnival in the tradition of the past.”
Mr. Paes stated that the official parade would take place, in which samba bands put on elaborately choreographed shows in an area flanked with bleachers that seats 56,000 people. However, there were some precautions.
Cariocas were, as Rio residents refer to them, destroyed.
“I was very excited, very hopeful, for the 2022 Carnival, even more so after a year without Carnival,” said João Victor Ramos, 26.
Designer Mr. Ramos stated that he was a quick reader of the news on his smartphone and shared it with his friends.
“It poured cold water on us, everyone was so sad,” he said, before adding reluctantly that the decision was understandable, as the effect of year-end celebrations on Brazil’s coronavirus caseload was already noticeable. After months of decline, the number of cases is now climbing again.
Many people in the city had started to practice for the festivities, preparing for the citywide celebration. They said that it was urgently needed after two years of a pandemic.
“There was a twist that we were not expecting,” said Tatiana Paz, the organizer of one of Rio’s hundreds of street performance groups known as “blocos,” which play music and lead throngs of dancers through the streets for days. “With most Brazilians fully immunized, we thought it was happening. But then the situation worsened again, and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Other major cities such as Olinda, São Luís and Florianópolis have also canceled their Carnival events in the last 24 hours.
Rio canceled both the parade and the street parties in 2021, when Brazil’s death toll surged as its vaccination campaign was off to a slow start. But toward the end of the year, as shots became more widely available, Brazilians embraced them: About 68 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, and the country’s caseload and death toll plunged.
The population was able to socialize again after the period of relative calm. As summer arrived, bars, streets and beaches became crowded. On Copacabana Beach, many welcomed the New Year under a sky filled with fireworks — though without the usual concerts that go along with the celebration.
However, infections began to rise again as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spread throughout the globe. In some cases, it can even infect vaccinated people. The number of new cases in Brazil has increased by an average daily rate in the last few days, but is still far below the peak in May and July.
Rodrigo Rezende, the head of a bloco, stated that they had been applying for official permits before the bad news.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The global surge. The coronavirus is spreading faster than ever at the start of 2022, but the last days of 2021 brought the encouraging news that the Omicron variant produces less severe illness than earlier waves. Therefore, governments are focusing more attention on expanding vaccinations than limiting spread.
“We were getting ready,” he said, “but were very aware that it could eventually not happen.”
Many criticised Mayor Paes’ decision to keep the expensive Carnival parade which is broadcast on national television, but canceled the free public celebrations in the streets.
The decision “favors the industry, and it excludes the regular people,” said Nyandra Fernandes, one of the dancers of the Tambores de Olokun bloco.
The mayor replied on Twitter, brushing off allegations that his decision was elitist: “With all due respect to couch analysts and progressives,” he wrote, “the poor and the humble” are strongly represented in the official parade.
“They are the creators of this incredible cultural manifestation,” he said.
Rio’s annual Carnival, considered to be one of the largest in the world, takes place in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, the Western Christian holy day that marks the start of Lent. This year, Ash Wednesday falls on March 2.
The city’s tradition, with its lively music and elaborate costumes, has endured and often thrived even in difficult times. Brazilians have survived wars, hyperinflation and repressive military rule. They also survived street violence and the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. Official calls to postpone Carnival for sanitation reasons in Brazil in 1892 and 1912 to mourn the loss of a national hero were mostly ignored.
Conversely, this year’s Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans appear to be moving forward after the event was canceled in 2021 because of the pandemic.
Source: NY Times