By Bruno de Nicola, Contributing Reporter

Protesters in front of Palácio Tiradentes, photo by José Antonio Sanchez.
Protesters in front of Palácio Tiradentes, photo by José Antonio Sanchez.

RIO DE JANEIRO – On Sunday August 30, a union of blocos de rua (street parties) held a demonstration in Praça XV, in the Centro district, to protest Mayor Eduardo Paes’ new regulations for street parades.

Under the new laws, a considerable number of blocos could be ruled out from Carnival 2010. The decree aims to preserve public order and transport by allowing the council to plan every detail of the street parades.

Bloco representatives such as Nelson Rodrigues Filho, founder of the popular Bloco do Barbas, claim, “too many rules may threaten the spontaneous nature of the party.”

However, quite a significant number of Mayor Paes’ electors are known to be Carnival detractors, and many often complain about the unpleasant consequences of the parties.

Blocos are formed by between 20 to 100 musicians, normally divided in two sections: wind and drums. They march on a set day during Carnival through an established route, playing the traditional marchinhas (marches) and carrying a huge banner, called an ‘estandarte’, to lead the parade.  Some blocos are choreographed, others have dance sections and all are followed by thousands of  foliões (ravers), dancing and singing along with the band, dressed in colorful and extravagant costumes.

Bloco in Santa Teresa, photo by Sarah Bosch.
Bloco in Santa Teresa, photo by Sarah Bosch.

Blocos usually attract a large number of followers, sometimes reaching as many as 5,000 to 10,000 people, thus creating a nuisance to city streets in the form of traffic jams, urination, litter and vandalism.

Until now there has been no law governing the blocos’ duration or location. This year on May 8 however, Mayor Paes proclaimed a decree that radically changed the usual order of things. All blocos wishing to parade during Carnaval 2010 had to register the bloco before August 30. The council would then authorize the bloco’s participation.

According to the decree, all bloco representatives must fill in a form which states the initial and final time of the parade, the exact route and estimated number of foliões.

By having the blocos registered, Mayor Paes aims to provide better control over traffic jams with police enforcement and chemical lavatory placement. The decree surely grants useful information to the council, however it also rules out a relevant number of traditional blocos, whose usual routes clashe with other events, or do not meet the council’s security standards.

In protest of the new restrictions, a union of blocos gathered to organize a demonstration which was held on Sunday, August 30 in the Praça XV square.

Parade leader, Hellen Mendes, explained, “traditional blocos such as Boi Tolo, which parade at the same time as the very popular Boi Tatá, and Se Melhorar Afunda, which starts in Niterói and then boards a ferry to Rio, will never be granted permission for their parties.”

Many Carnival lovers attended the event, hoping to raise awareness of the opposition against Mayor Paes’ decree. Among them was Nelson Rodrigues Filho, displeased by the council’s new measures. The bloco founder, in an earlier interview, stated: “Cariocas have always been very good at organizing their own parties.”

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