By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday January 8th, hundreds of people gathered in Rio de Janeiro’s downtown Centro area to join in with the first Carnival 2017 festivities. Crowds gathered in Praça XV from late afternoon to join in with the first bloco parties of 2017.
Desliga dos Blocos, a Carnival collective made up of a collaboration of more than thirty blocos, organized Sunday’s events in Centro. More than ten participating bloco groups joined in for the unofficial Carnival warm-up party, and celebrations stretched from Praça XV to Praça Tiradentes and Rio de Janeiro’s legislative assembly (Alerj).
Kicking off the afternoon, Cariocas enjoyed samba music from Bateria Insana continued into late evening when bloco Cordão de Boi Tolo closed the season’s first festivities.
Gabriel Firmino, a member of Cordão de Boi Tolo, told O Globo reporters that spontaneity defines the Carnival spirit.
“I think that the carnival has to be autonomous and free, and not depend so much on the city hall, financial, organizational and political, as this ends up taking spontaneity, so it is decreed the beginning of the carnival that goes until after the official,” he told reporters.
Rio de Janeiro’s municipal government has not yet officially approved all the blocos that have applied for permission during the 2017 Carnival period. Currently, 452 of the 536 blocos have been granted permission, with government tourism department Riotur saying that more groups could yet receive official approval.
Announcement of the official Carnival bloco schedule, which approved 505 blocos in 2016 and should have announced 2017’s shedule last week, has been delayed until next Friday. Riotur has delayed this year’s announcement due to a request from the city’s new mayor, Marcello Crivella, to provide a more detailed security plan for the blocos.
Carnival traditions have long outrun the epoch of official approval of bloco schedules and routes, which the city government only began to regulate and require in 2009. Approved bloco schedules mean that the city can provide public toilets and additional security, as well as ensure that local businesses are informed.