By Nicole Froio, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Nearly five hundred blocos, the open parading-street-parties, have become the core of Carnival for locals in the last decade – much more accessible than the parades at the Sambódromo. Perhaps even too much so, as some residents in Zona Sul (South Zone) started to request more were moved towards Centro and other areas.
This Carnival season Rio licensed 67 new blocos, with the number increasing in the Port Zone, as well as neighborhoods like Méier, Piedade and Engenho de Dentro. Zona Norte (North Zone) has had a 44 percent increase in blocos and Grande Tijuca has had a 33 percent increase of approved samba group street parties.
In Centro, nine more blocos will take place while the Zona Oeste (West Zone) received permission for five more. This means that Centro now has 87 resident blocos and Zona Oeste has 37.
Last Friday, many Cariocas left work early to join 100,000 revelers at the famous Cordão da Bola Preta bloco, in Rio’s Centro district – the city’s longest-running Carnival bloco, originally founded in 1918. This weekend, as many as two million are predicted to attend the final Carnival weekend edition of the same bloco.
Zona Sul was the only neighborhood that is not increasing the number of blocos during Carnival as much as the others, as 44 applications from this area were refused. For the city overall, only 91 applications were turned down, out of 583 submitted.
Since last year, the number of blocos in the Zona Sul will not increase significantly due to the already massive number of partygoers that the festivities attract. However the famous district will still host the largest number of blocos – in total there will be 148 during the 2013 Carnival (out of 492 total).
In Ipanema, the traditional “Simpatia é Quase Amor” kicked off the season in earnest with between 70,000 and 80,000 foliões (revelers) descended on the neighborhood, according to Riotur. Certainly even more will attend the version this weekend, as well as the even more famous “Banda de Ipanema” bloco.
American expatriate in Rio and owner of the Gringo Café Sam Flowers recommends another famous bloco, the Banda de Ipanema bloco because it is the most traditional samba group. He also predicts it to be one of his busiest times of the year.
As a resident and business owner in Ipanema, he explains; “Blocos that occur in Ipanema generate a lot of business for the café. And I often joke that our nice clean bathrooms seem to be one of the main attractions for the partiers.”
Copacabana is also the recipient of massive blocos and last weekend saw “No bloco Chora Me Liga” draw tens of thousands along the beach. The CopaHostel Manager Luiz Geraldo told The Rio Times that guests love the blocos during Carnival, especially the ones in Copacabana.
He said, “Our guests participate actively in street parties and also watch the parades of samba schools. They are fascinated with finding joy, the freedom to celebrate a party in the street and the multicultural experience that this provides.”
Even though it is time for partying, security is also important, and CopaHostel makes special precautions to keep guests safe and sound. “We intensified security procedures for our guests to have complete peace of mind to enjoy the most. It’s just routine.” he explained.
In Rio the blocos are an integral part of the Carnival culture and as they vary dramatically in size, location and temperament, it is a mistake to lump them all together. The largest of course create some disruption to the communities that host them, but with the new distribution of permits throughout the city, officials hope that residents can enjoy them equally.