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Culture & People

The cultures of the indigenous Indians, Africans, and Portuguese have together formed the modern Brazilian way of life. The Portuguese culture is by far the dominant of these influences; from it Brazilians acquired their language, their main religion, and most of their customs. The Indian population is now statistically small, but Tupí-Guaraní, the language of many Brazilian Indians, continues to strongly influence the Brazilian Portuguese language; other Indian contributions to Brazilian culture are most apparent in the Amazon basin. African influences on the Brazilian way of life are strongest along the coast between the Northeast and Rio de Janeiro; they include traditional foods, religions, and popular music and dance, especially the samba. Commercial and cultural imports from Europe and North America have often competed with—and influenced—Brazilians' own cultural output, and critics have argued that the nation's cultural identity is suffering as a result. Despite numerous social and economic challenges, Brazilians continue to be exuberant and creative in their celebrations and art forms.


The Brazilian Carnival (Portuguese: Carnaval) is an annual festival season in Brazil held 40 days before Easter and marks the beginning of Lent. During Lent, Roman Catholics are supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures, including the consumption of meat. The carnival, celebrated as a profane event and believed to have its origins in the pagan Saturnalia, can thus be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. Brazilian Carnival as a whole exhibits some differences with its counterparts in Europe and other parts of the world, and within Brazil it has distinct regional manifestations.

Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian citizens used to riot the Carnival until it was accepted by the government as an expression of culture. The modern Brazilian Carnival finds its roots in Rio de Janeiro in the 1830s, when the city’s bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, over time acquiring elements derived from African and Amerindian cultures.

In the late 19th century, the cordões (literally laces or strings in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were groups of people who would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. Today they are known as blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or specials t-shirts according to certain themes or to celebrate the Carnival. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighbourhoods or suburbs and include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

This "blocos" have become a big part of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. There are more then 100 "blocos" now a days and each year this number increases. Some are big, some are small, most concentrate in square and later parade though the streets and a few stay in the same place all the time. Each "bloco" has its place or street to parade and the big ones usually close the streets for car traffic. They usually start in January and last till the end of Carnival, so since the beginning of the year you can see a group of people dancing samba in any street of Rio in the weekends and during Carnival every day.

"Blocos" parade in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botanico, Downtown etc. They usually happens during the day till night but a few starts after work time and you can see people going strait from work. Usually the people who organised the "bloco" compose their own music which plays all the time during the parade with old canival musics called "Marchinhas de carnaval" and sambas that have become classics. The most important "blocos" are: "O cordão do bola preta" that parade in downtown streets, in the heart of Rio's historical centre. "Suvaco de Cristo" (Christ's armpit in Portuguese), because it parades in a street call Jardim Bortanico, near Rio de Janeiro's Botanic Garden and below the Christ the Redeemer statue. Monobloco is another bloco that has become so famous that their band plays all year round in parties and small concerts.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is known worldwide for the elaborate parades staged by the city’s major samba schools in the Sambadrome and is one of the Rio’s major tourist attractions. Each samba school rehearses all year round for this event and all its members take part in the rehearsals, whether experts or not. It is a place where people who always wanted to write a song, play a percussion instrument or choreograph a dance will have their opportunity. It is usual that during the carnival aristocrats dress up as commoners, men cross-dress as women, and poor people dress up as princes and princesses - social roles and class differences are expected to be forgotten once a year, but only for the duration of the festival.

Samba schools are very large, well-financed organisations that labour year round in preparation for Carnival. Parading in the Sambadrome runs over four entire nights and is part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single samba school will be declared that year’s winner. Blocos deriving from the samba schools also hold street parties in their respective suburbs, through which they parade along with their followers.

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