Rio de Janeiro Part II: The Saga Continues
Rio is, of course, known for its elaborate Carnaval. This year, Carnaval is next week, so there were signs around for the parade & much buzz. Carnaval, by the way, is the last day of eating meat before Lent; hence the name derives from meat (carne in Spanish).
On our tours we saw the stadium where the parade will pass the viewing stands, as well as the building where it is staged. In the first picture, which is one end of the stadium area, there is a huge symbol that looks a little like McDonald’s arches. This is the symbol of Rio’s Carnaval, and we were told it was actually modeled on the bottom part of a string bikini. The parade is staged by the “Samba schools,” the first of which was established in 1928, which are really clubs rather than schools. There are two levels, poetically titled A and B, and I think they said there are six schools in each level. Each school’s performance is judged each year, and the lowest scoring one in level A is demoted to level B, while the highest scorer in level B is promoted to A. So there is fierce competition, since there is much prestige involved in being in level A, as well as in winning a prize.
On the night of February 14 we had a Samba show on the ship. The name “Samba” has always sounded to me like a cool, relaxed, sophisticated kind of dance. We have been told that there are many genres of Samba, much as there are of American Jazz, but the version we saw (which I understand is like what is in Rio’s Carnaval parade) is nothing like that. The music is all drums & percussion, very loud with insistent rhythms. The dancers are scantily clad and/or elaborately outfitted, and the dancing is very hot and provocative. All the music was made by men, and almost all the dancers were women. It struck me as being very African. Mary found it rather tedious, because the music was all rhythm and continued incessantly for about an hour without any breaks, but I found it pretty compelling. I was told later that some of our passengers walked out early because they found the dancing offensive, but there were others who got up and danced and were totally involved. I took some video, which of course I can’t post here, but there are some photos that might give you an idea.
We were told that more than 2.5 million dollars worth of Ostrich feathers are used every year at Carnaval, and you can see why in these pictures. Most of them are thrown in the garbage afterwards; only about 20% can be recycled the next year. In the fourth from the last picture, you can see that the dancer is holding the hands of the man behind her in line; apparently, he had been putting them where he shouldn’t, since all the other dancers had hands on their hips. So, I guess he’s not too old to boogie!
On February 15 we were on an excursion to Corcovado, a mountain that is substantially higher than Sugarloaf. You go most of the way up on a train, with tracks steep enough that we kept slipping off our seats. Then near the top there is an elevator the rest of the way. The train has been running for more than a hundred years but the statue of Cristo Redentor wasn’t built until 1931. As I mentioned yesterday, it is considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, although I’m not sure why; it was refurbished last year, & they added a chapel in its base. Lots of people had the same clever idea to pose in front of the statue with their arms held out horizontally (so original), so we didn’t.
And of course, the vistas from the top of Corcovado were outstanding.
In the last picture above, you can see a canal running from the bottom right up across the beach. This is the dividing line; on the left is Ipanema & on the right is Leblond.
I have discussed earlier the Favelas, and Rio is famous for them. If you have ever seen the old movie “Black Orpheus,” it is about life in the Favelas & also about Carnaval. Its an interesting movie, and includes some marvelous Brazilian music. Anyway, here are pictures of a handful of the many hundreds of Favelas. The first one is one of the most famous, La Recinha (I think that’s right), one of the first to be cleaned up of drug dealers. It sits on a beautiful hillside near Leblond beach overlooking the ocean. Our guide tried to tell us how great life is in the Favelas - low taxes, beautiful views from the mountainsides, free schools – to the point where I wanted to ask her why she hadn’t moved into one (but my mother raised me to be more polite than that).
In the last picture, you can see that each story of each building is a different color, like a stack of colored blocks. As it was explained to us, the way many of these Favelas grow is that one person builds a one story boxy house, then sells the roof space to another person who builds a house on top of it, who then sells their roof space to a third person who builds another house on top of that. Sometimes these stack up to 5 stories. I have no idea how they access the third story (stairs?), or connect illicit electric lines (pretty haphazard, as I understand it). In many of them there is no running water, so they buy water in bottles. It doesn’t sound to me like a nice way to live, regardless of the view.
There was also some flora and fauna, for those of you who like that sort of thing. There were some interesting birds with swallow-like tails, many of which fly around the city in strict formation, although I don’t know their names. There were also buzzards (some said black buzzards, but I don’t really know), and also some small lizards on Sugarloaf.
We saw some trees we had never heard of, including the Jackfruit & the Cannonball tree (with a fruit on the left of the tree & flowers on the right). And there were some flowers & plants whose names I don’t know.
Almost time to leave Rio, but how can I end this without some towel animals? So, for you towel animal fans, here is your daily fix:
So now we say goodbye to Rio, sailing out shortly before sunset, and I will leave you for now with one final view of Sugarloaf & one of Corcovado, just because I can’t get enough of them.