RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Here we are again, Carnival week and as usual the city is abuzz. In the past I’ve had mixed feelings about the hubbub disrupting my routine but this year I’m feeling more accommodating. Which is good because it is here irregardless of my personal sentiments. It is another year I will not make it to the Sambódromo, and my bloco outlook will be confined to my usual four-block radius, but I’m all for it this year, have at it.
An expat acquaintance of mine was shuddering with indignation of the inconvenience the other day and I told him my plan to not let it get me down. He asked how could I do that, given the proliferation of blocos this week and I don’t really have a specific plan, other then emotional alchemy. Turn that frown up-side-down.
If 50,000 kids want to drink, dance, chant and pee all over the streets for a couple weeks, no problem. It will rain soon and wash it all away. The rains of March (“Águas de Março” – the song composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim.)
The biggest news this week, or wrapping up last week is the suspension of the police strike. What a wild ride of anticipation and speculation, and we need to give credit to Rio’s leaders for not letting it turn into a Salvador situation.
I do hope the police and firefighters can negotiate out some higher pay. It will not happen overnight but if they get paid more then theoretically they will not need to seek income from other means, and the job should be one of dignity and integrity.
Our top story this week, other then Carnival, was about Brazil’s education system, a focus we plan to cover closely in the coming months. Favela violence and corruption will be the flashpoints for a good while, but Rio and Brazil are changing so fast the prediction is that given progress in these areas, the future concern is how to lift people out of poverty.
Outside of Brazil the world sees the new-money Brazilian jet-setters flashing cash from Miami to Bangkok, but here on the ground the minimum wage is still just R$622 (US$361) per month. The population of the favelas is growing about ten times faster then the other parts of the city, and Brazil can do better.
But for this week we can leave the heady thought for another time. We’ve mapped out the Carnival shows at the Sambódromo for the Grupo Especial (Special Group) as well as the Access Group, provided a recommendation of blocos to hit and an all-important guide on how to make the most of the bloco-five-day-weekend.
So get out there, have at it, and be safe.