By Leo Byrne, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week officials announced the number and locations of the ‘blocos’ that surround the 2013 Carnival season. Bucking the recent trend to lower the number of blocos – the open street party parades – this year an additional sixteen percent of permits were authorized, bringing the total to 492.
The vibrant, loud and occasionally controversial bloco parties are considered by many to be the beating heart of the Carnival season. Providing a festive – and free – backdrop for the more commonly known Sambódromo lavish spectacle, the street parties draw an estimated four million revelers each year.
Most neighborhoods across Rio will see an increase in the number of blocos this year. In an attempt to spread the festivities outside of Zona Sul (South Zone), the districts that saw the largest numbers of additional permits were the Zona Norte (North Zone) and Grande Tijuca. The two regions had a 44 percent and 33 percent respective increase in the number of permits granted.
The Centro district will host an additional nine street parties this year, while the Zona Oeste (West Zone) a further five, bringing their totals to 87 and 37 respectively. Of the 583 applications bloco permits tendered a total 91 were refused. Forty four of these were in the Zona Sul, the only district to not see a significant rise in the number of street parties this Carnival season.
Since last year, the number of blocos in the Zona Sul will not increase significantly due to the already large number of party-goers that the festivities attract. However the famous district will still host the largest number of blocos – in total there will be 148 blocos – with three new ones taking place in the recently pacified neighborhood of Rocinha favela community.
American expatriate and owner of the Gringo Café in Ipanema shared his thoughts on the number of blocos in the neighborhood. “On the one hand the volume of business is lower, on the other hand the atmosphere in the neighborhood is more comfortable; in the past the crowds day after day felt a bit overwhelming.”
The routes and locations of popular blocos in the Zona Sul will also be modified this year, with on-going construction works causing problems.
“We had to alter and reallocate some of the street parties, due to a large number of construction works in the city, especially in Leblon. It was a long conversation with the organizers to accommodate the parties elsewhere for this Carnival,” the Special Secretary Tourism, Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello told O Globo.
Numerous blocos in Leblon, including the popular ‘Azeitona Sem Caroço’ party will be moved due to continuing work on the new Metro Line, while the ‘O Mulheres de Chico’ event will take place in the Leme neighborhood this year.
Although around four hundred of the blocos will take place in or around Carnival week (officially Saturday, February 9th through Tuesday, February 12th), the first street parties already got things underway last weekend in Lapa.
Most Cariocas are happy to see that the blocos are once again on the increase. “The atmosphere regarding the blocos at Carnival has changed a good deal recently. The street Carnival is finally back [and now] it maintains the original vibe,” Paulo Sardinha director of Bem Brasil, a company that organizes parties for Rio natives and tourists alike told The Rio Times.