By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – During a live ceremony held on Friday, November 15th at the Cidade do Samba in Gamboa, a jury selected Wilson Dias da Costa Neto as the Rei Momo (King Momo) for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Carnival celebrations. This will be Wilson Neto’s third consecutive year serving as Rei Momo.
To complete the 2016 Carnival Corte Real (Royal Court) Clara Paixão was selected to serve as queen; Uillana Adães as first princess; and Bianca Monteiro as second princess.
Rei Momo or Rey Momo in Spanish, is a traditional role in many Latin American countries’ celebrations of Carnival. The presentation of the key to the city by the mayor to the Rei Momo typically symbolizes the beginning of the yearly Carnival celebrations.
In Brazil, it is said that the tradition began in 1933 with a paper mache doll portraying the role of Rei Momo. Gustavo Mattos followed as a human representative of Rei Momo in 1949.
Each year contestants compete for the role. The jury that selected Neto as Rei Momo for the 2016 Carnival was chaired by Gustavo Mostof, Diretor de Operações da Riotur (Riotur Director of Operations). Also serving as part of the jury was legal adviser to the Riotur, Heric Monti; porta-bandeira (flag bearer) Selminha Smile, the president of Amebras, Celia Domingues and journalists Rita Fernandes, Leonardo Bruno, Alberto João and Aydano Andre Motta.
During carnival each year, millions fill the streets of Rio de Janeiro for the parties known as blocos and hundreds of thousands more fill the boxes and bleachers of the Sambódromo to view the famed Carnival parades, where the city’s samba schools compete for the championship.
Carnival will take place next year on February 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, with the winners of the Carnival competition announced on Ash Wednesday, February 10th.