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By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With 2012 well underway and the Rio summer sun turning up the heat on the streets, the countdown to Carnival has begun in earnest. With just five weeks to go, a massive street party in the Praça XV last Sunday marked the unofficial opening of Rio’s Carnival season, giving revelers a sneak preview of the most democratic and hedonistic of Carnival’s traditions – the “bloco”.

Bloco is the term used to describe pageant groups that parade through the streets all over the city at Carnival time . . .

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