By Amy Skalmusky, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL – An estimated 3,000,000 people are partying in the streets of Rio at its over 400 blocos, or Carnival block parties. With nearly half of the blocos situated in Zona Sul (South zone), residents are reeling from the chaos and authorities are discussing moving some of the festivities to Centro.
Since 2009, blocos have been enjoying a resurgence after falling out of favor with the public. This year saw a 20 percent increase in attendance over last year’s record-breaking turnout.
Blocos in Zona Sul pack thousands of people into tight spaces, for example, the traditional Ipanema bloco Simpatia é Quase Amor over 75,000 people squeezed into an area of around .01 square mile, or three city blocks.
The growing crowds are accompanied by complaints from residents and business owners of noise, public urination, traffic disruptions and large scale disorderly conduct.
“Carnival brings lots of tourists, which is good for the city,” said Susana Xavier, an Ipanema resident in a letter to O Globo. “But like all events that have a big impact on people’s lives, it needs to be regulated.”
On the other hand, Hakan Almerfors, an expatriate and small business owner in Ipanema defends them by saying, “I actually don’t mind it at all, the Carnival brings in so much money, some mess is is bound to come with it. We had something called The Water festival in Stockholm, most people living in there complained until it was gone, then people realized it was quite cool.”
The resident association of the Zona Sul neighborhood of Leblon (AMA Leblon) is submitting an official appeal to the mayor’s office requesting that all blocos be transferred from the narrow, internal streets of the neighborhood to either the beach of another area of town. This in response to the Vira-Lata bloco in the neighborhood, where the expected 5,000 revelers ended up ballooning to 20,0000.
“The neighborhood only has 70,000 residents and can’t handle that many people,” said Evelyn Rosenzweig, president of the AMA Leblon.
In response to the complaints, Mayor Eduardo Paes and Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello, President of RIOTUR, the entity that emits authorization for blocos, have proposed reviewing the permits along with moving a part of the blocos from Zona Sul to Centro for 2012.
According to Paes, the number of bloco permits this year, 424, is the absolute maximum that the city can handle. “We will not increase the number of blocos next year,” said Paes. He also emphasized that no permits would be given to “commercial blocos”, or blocos run by private companies that come to Rio from other parts of the country.
The existing permits will be scrutinized, and the smaller, newer blocos, which proved to be the least orderly, may have their permits revoked. Also, many of the of the 153 blocos in Zona Sul will be transferred to Centro in 2012, though the exact number has not been announced. Though the transfers will be negotiated with each of the organizers, it is likely that more traditional blocos will stay put.
“There is no way to move Simpatia é Quase Amor or the Banda de Ipanema to Centro,” said Paes. “We will make every effort to try to maintain the spontaneity and improve organization.”