By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Anyone who is familiar with Carnival in Rio, or is planning to experience it, should know that the large roving street parties called ‘blocos’ create most of the electric energy in the city. This year the authorities announced that there will be 505 blocos, almost fifty more than last year.

Cordão da Bola Preta bloco in Centro for Rio 2015 Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
The famous Cordão da Bola Preta bloco in Centro for 2015 Carnival, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

Although some rehearsal events have already taken place, the first official bloco to parade this year will be the Liga dos Blocos in the Port Zone (of Centro), on January 16th. Traditionally Monobloco is the final bloco of the season, and this year it will close the 2016 Carnival festivities on February 14th.

The larger number of licensed blocos in 2016 reverses a trend of reducing or at least not increasing the number, and many put it down to the economic crisis in the country. Member of Bloco do Barbas, Nei Barbosa, told the government news agency “Brazilians are traveling less abroad because the dollar is on high.”

“[So they] travel internally and a lot are coming to Rio, and the locals themselves are in town and go to the streets,” he said. “That’s good, because it animates the Carnival, but it is also a much greater responsibility to hold the bloco on the street with no problem,” he added. The Bloco do Barbas will parade on February 6th, in Botafogo.

Tom Le Mesurier, an expatriate and culinary tour guide at Eat Rio, explained, “I’m not that surprised to hear [there are more blocos] actually. It seems that Carnival has been growing steadily in recent years – especially in areas away from Zona Sul (South Zone) like Barra. Personally I’m in favor of more blocos with smaller crowds.”

Bloco Simpatia É Quase Amor 2013
Zona Sul’s Bloco Simpatia É Quase Amor parades beside Rio’s famous Ipanema Beach each year, photo by Foto Fernando Maia/Riotur.

As far as his favorite blocos, he adds, “My best Carnival experiences always come at the smaller blocos like ‘Desce mas não sobe’ in Catete. The blocos that get the really huge crowds (‘Bola Preta’, ‘Sargento Pimenta’) can be a little overwhelming due to the sheer weight of numbers.”

The city has continued to redistribute the blocos away from the Zona Sul beaches, and move more toward Centro and the Port Zone. One of the reasons being the immense bloco crowds can bring an element of drunken public disorder that takes a heavy toll.

The Cordão da Bola Preta, the largest bloco that attracts over one million people to Centro in Rio, also hopes to attract larger audience this year than last year. “We expect somewhere around two million revelers,” the president of the bloco, Pedro Ernesto Marino. The Bola Preta starts on February 6th, gathering on Rua Primeiro de Março starting at 7AM.

For a complete list of all Rio Carnival 2016 blocos, see the wikirio page. Readers should know that while some blocos are family-friendly, the larger blocos may not be appropriate for children, and tennis (sneakers) footwear is advised, as is drinking lots of water and queuing up for the bathroom portable toilets early.

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