By Anna Fitzpatrick, Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the official start of Carnival only a few days away, São Paulo is fighting hard against its image as a city of all work and no play. Though not world renowned for its Carnival celebrations, there is still plenty of revelry to be found, from the São Paulo Sambódromo to the cordões and street blocos.

Carnival 2010 at the São Paulo Sambódromo
Carnival 2010 at the São Paulo Sambódromo, photo by Paula Ferrari/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Like its wealth, the Samba of the city was built on immigration, especially from the farm workers who came into the city during the harvest. Musically, the city is often seen as the underdog next to Rio de Janeiro, and the African influenced Bahian beats.

However, São Paulo has had prominent Carnival celebrations since 1914 when the Grupo Carnavelsco da Barra Funda had Paulistanos dancing in the streets. Over the last twenty years, like the celebrations in Rio, Carnival celebrations have embraced the spectacular and is now about Fantasia(Carnival costumes), celebrities and extravagance.

On Friday, March 4th, the parade at the Oscar Niemeyer designed Sambódromo in Anhembi will start the official Carnival celebrations, with a host of Big Brother stars, models, TV presenters and even the former President Lula all taking part.

Lia Spínola, who plays the agogô (not too dissimilar from a cow bell) for Águia de Ouro Samba school says: “This will be my third year playing in the Carnival. I love playing; it is really relaxed and good fun.” All eyes will be on last year’s winner Rosas de Ouro to see if they can retain the title of champions.

The parade order for the Special Group stage of the competition in the Sambódromo in Anhembi is as follows, and you can see more information about ticket sales here:

Friday, March 4th: Unidos do Peruche, Tom Maior, Acadêmicos do Tucuruvi, Rosas de Ouro, Mancha Verde, Vai-Vai, Pérola Negra.

Saturday, March 5th:Nenê de Vila Matilde, Águia de Ouro, Mocidade Alegre, Unidos de Vila Maria, X-9 Paulistana, Gaviões da Fiel, Império de Casa Verde.

Cordão Cecilia bloco in São Paulo
Cordão Cecilia bloco in São Paulo, photo by Marcelo Costa/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Aside from the festivities taking place in the Sambódromo the city will also play host to a number of blocos and hosted a big pre-Carnival warm up at Pholia na Luz, in the center of the city, last weekend.

Unlike the Sambódromo the blocos are free of charge with groups and bands performing without the strict rules of the official competitive parades.

Ideval Anselmo, a sambista (Samba composer) for Kolobolo diá Piratininga, a cordão that plays weekly in the Vila Madalena area of the city, stresses that “the community aspect of Carnival should not be forgotten” and although there are not as many as in Rio, there will be various street parties throughout the city. Some of the largest ones are listed below.

Wednesday, March 2nd:
Banda do Candinho
Meeting point: Rua Santo Antonio, Bela Vista
Time: 9PM

Thursday, March 3rd
Bloco Umes Caras Pintadas
Meeting point: Rua Rui Barbosa, 323, Bela Vista
Time: 7PM

Friday, March 4th
Banda do Trem Elétrico
Meeting point: Rua Augusta and Rua Luiz Coelho, Consolação.
Time: 9PM

Saturday, March 5th
Cordão Cecília (Santa Cecília)
Meeting point: Vitorino Carmilo, 449
Time: 3PM

Monday, March 7th
Bloco dos Esfarrapados
Meeting point: Rua Carrão Counsel, 466
Time: 12PM


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