Carnival Cutbacks?

WORLD

Shortages of both water and funds have cities across Brazil canceling or hedging plans—even for the world-famous Carnival of Rio. (The Guardian)

Use our resources to learn more about Carnival and other cultural geographies of South America.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Where else could this be? A beautiful Sambista bedecked in Brazil's traditional green and yellow celebrates two of Brazil's great passions—soccer (futbol) and Carnival. Photograph by Nicolas de Camaret, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Where else could this be? A beautiful sambista bedecked in Brazil’s traditional green and yellow celebrates two of the country’s great passions—soccer and Carnival.
Photograph by Nicolas de Camaret, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Discussion Ideas

Carnival is an important example of a religious tradition that has been adopted by secular culture. Floats and performances from samba schools often feature religious iconography, as well as lots and lots of sequins and feathers. Nicolas de Camaret, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Carnival is an important example of a religious tradition that has been adopted by secular culture. Floats and performances from samba schools often feature religious iconography, as well as lots and lots of sequins and feathers.
Nicolas de Camaret, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Carnival is celebrated in dozens of countries steeped in Catholic tradition. The Carnival of Venice, Italy, for example, is famous for its elaborate masks and Renaissance-inspired costumes. Photograph by Wanblee, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Carnival is celebrated in dozens of countries steeped in Catholic tradition. The Carnival of Venice, Italy, for example, is famous for its elaborate masks and Renaissance-inspired costumes.
Photograph by Wanblee, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

  • Why is Brazil’s Carnival in the news now?
    • Carnival starts today—Friday, February 13.

 

Click to enlarge this great panorama! A sambadrome is a place where samba schools parade during Carnival. Rio's sambadrome is a specially-built structure capable of accommodating 90,000 spectators and hundreds of parading samba schools. Photograph by Michael Baldwin, courtesy Wikimedia. This image is copyrighted. However, the copyright holder has irrevocably released all rights to it, allowing it to be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, modified, built upon, or otherwise exploited in any way by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, with or without attribution of the author, as if in the public domain.

Click to enlarge this great panorama! A sambadrome is a place where samba schools parade during Carnival. Rio’s sambadrome is a specially-built structure capable of accommodating 90,000 spectators and hundreds of parading samba schools.
Photograph by Michael Baldwin, courtesy Wikimedia. This image is copyrighted. However, the copyright holder has irrevocably released all rights to it.

The arch is the end of the 700-meter (765-yard) Rio sambadrome. The bleachers are permanent, and the sambadrome will be home to the archery and marathon events when Rio hosts the Summer Olympics next year. Photograph by Fernando Frazão, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

The arch is the end of the 700-meter (765-yard) Rio sambadrome. The bleachers are permanent, and the sambadrome will be home to the archery and marathon events when Rio hosts the Summer Olympics next year.
Photograph by Fernando Frazão, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

  • What are samba schools?
    • Samba schools are large social groups, often with thousands of members, which create elaborate floats and costumes for the Carnival parade.
This float was created by the Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, a major samba school in Rio. Many floats celebrate the rich multicultural history of Brazil, including indigenous, European, and African heritage. Photograph by Sergio Luiz, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY 2.0

This float was created by the Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, a major samba school in Rio. Many floats celebrate the rich multicultural history of Brazil, including indigenous, European, and African heritage. Some samba schools spend as much as $4 million on costumes, floats, and preparation—although the majority of samba schools come from Rio’s favelas, or slum neighborhoods.
Photograph by Sergio Luiz, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY 2.0

 

  • What are blocos?
    • Blocos, an older Carnival tradition, are smaller groups that often gather in neighborhoods to dance during Carnival festivities.
It wouldn't be carnival in Brazil without giant puppets—these stalk the streets of the city of Olinda. Photograph by Antonio Cruz, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-3.0

It wouldn’t be carnival in Brazil without giant puppets—these stalk the streets of the city of Olinda.
Photograph by Antonio Cruz, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-3.0

 

  • Read through the Guardian article about Carnival 2015 festivities. How are cutbacks impacting samba schools and blocos in Brazil this year?
    • In Brasilia, local authorities have cancelled the samba school parade for the first time since 1983.
    • In Rio, blocos lost crucial financial support from corporate sponsors, and two events had to be canceled.
    • Ten towns in the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais canceled Carnival activities altogether.

 

  • Why are samba schools and blocos facing such cutbacks?
    • Finance: Brazil’s economy is in a downturn right now. Authorities in Brasilia canceled the parade to help plug a $1.4 billion debt, while lower profits caused corporate sponsors to back out of funding the bloco events.
    • Drought: Brazil is experiencing terrible drought. Homes, restaurants, bars, and hotels are on strict water-rationing, going without running water for up to five days a week. “The bars don’t even have water in their toilets,” says one authority in Sao Paulo, and untreated water will be used to clean the streets after the festivities.

 

  • Why is this news—why does the cancelation of Carnival festivities matter so much to Brazilians?
    • The drought would matter regardless of the timing. Brazil has an enormous agricultural sector, and the drought is crippling its already-stressed economy. It is also impacting health-care in Brazil. According to the Guardian, “With water rationing in effect in some places, Brazilians have been stockpiling water. But improperly covered water tanks are a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes. Nationwide, cases of dengue fever were up 57% year-on-year this January.”
    • Carnival is one of the most profitable enterprises in the Brazil. Thousands of tourists flock to Rio’s enormous sambadrome, paying hundreds of dollars to watch the parade. Last year (2014), about 1.6 million tourists came to Brazil for the long Carnival weekend, with about 920,000 visiting Rio. Carnival tourism generated about $1.5 billion.
Millions of tourists flock to Brazil every year during Carnival. Here, thousands crowd the Bloco da Camisinha, in the city of Bahia. Photograph by Jurema Oliveira, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

More than a million tourists flock to Brazil every year during Carnival. Here, thousands crowd the Bloco da Camisinha, in the city of Bahia.
Photograph by Jurema Oliveira, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

The Guardian: Brazil scales back Carnival festivities as drought and weak economy persist

Nat Geo: What is the cultural geography of South America?

ReutersBrazil’s 2015 economic outlook darkens as fiscal measures bite

The Guardian: Brazil’s worst drought in history prompts protests and blackouts

Rio Carnival Services : FAQ about 2015 Rio Sambadrome Tickets

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