I remember my host sister telling me that “homen brasileiro começa namorar só depois do carnaval” meaning that Brazilian guys only commit to a relationship after the yearly outpouring of samba, blocos, cerveja, espuma, sexo, glitter, green and blue face-paint, and loucura. Both men and women (but men more openly) use this time of the year to “ficar” (hook up/make out) with random people that they meet while dancing and drinking together on the street during a bloco, sambando during a parade, or getting a tan on the beach. As told by one of my friends: “guys literally kiss you before asking for your name.” Another one of my girl-friends said that men would approach her to kiss her without saying hi and they would even “have the guts to ask why when I turned my face away.” From my own experience, since I am in a relationship, I didn’t have the issue of testosterone impulse surrounding me but I did witness how some of my friends were approached and touched by random drunk guys on the streets. So, apart from all this male craziness, there was something really positive about gender relations that really caught my attention.
Honestly, I didn’t expect much from the carnival parades since I thought I had seen it all in Colombia’s Carnaval de Barranquilla and Fiestas de Independencia de Cartagena. But I was wrong, very wrong. These carnival parades happen in huge places called Sambodromos which are exclusively used for Escolas de Samba to display all their art: huge floats, fantasia (customes), and dancing through the rua or a space that simulates the streets surrounded by places to sit for the audiences. So this is exactly how it goes: there are several Escolas de Samba in every city in Brazil. The members of each group (which are usually around 600 people) prepare for more than a year to walk and dance the Sambodromo with other escolas and compete for the best one. And it’s not only a matter of who dances the best, it’s a matter of whose costumes and whose floats were better decorated, and whose song and theme were more creative. They all have a theme “samba enredo” or song that tells a story. It’s basically a sang-poem, and this year, in Carnaval de Sāo Paulo, I had the chance to witness some related to racism; floats with the faces of legendary black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Malcolm x, etc. and others related to the 80s with Michael Jackson in the parade, and the band “Kiss” in one of the floats. It is basically a spectacular show of art that everyone should see once in their lives.
Apart from the magnitude of effort that is put into samba school’s yearly display, what really caught my eye was how women, during carnival, were not afraid to show their bodies and move them along with the music as they celebrate during this time of the year. During the parade, I saw women of all sizes and ages wearing small samba costumes, dancing happily along without fears of judgment, and with joy in their faces, a joy of feeling liberated. What I came to analyze is that during this time of the year, there’s basically non-existent judgment or socially constructed concept of beauty. Everyone celebrates freely and happily with the body that God gave them. Also, being a woman during carnival becomes an ideal: some guys wear female clothing in a playful manner, forgetting about their possible insecurities and about possible shame for seeming like a woman or being considered homosexual. Celebrations on the streets from all and to all, carnival was a shiny celebration of art, equality, craziness, and joy.