Dancers from the Aguia de Ouro samba school perform during a carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 19, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's Carnival is back. Glittery and outrageous costumes have been prepared again, and Samba songs have been ringing out until dawn at Rio de Janeiro's sold-out parade grounds.
Hundreds of raucous, roaming parties were flooding the streets. And working-class communities were buoyed, emotionally and economically, by the renewed revelry.
The pandemic last year prompted Rio to delay Carnival by two months and dampened some of the fun, which was attended mostly by locals. Brazil's federal government said it expects 46 million people to join the festivities that officially began on Friday and run until Wednesday.
That includes visitors to cities that make Carnival a world-famous bash, especially Rio but also Salvador, Recife and metropolitan Sao Paulo, which has recently emerged as a hot spot.
These cities have already begun letting loose.
Many Brazilian mayors, including Rio's, were marking the start of the celebrations on Friday by symbolically handing the keys of their cities to their Carnival Kings. And the first street parties of the Carnival weekend began.
"We've waited for so long," said Thiago Varella, 38, an engineer, wearing a Hawaiian shirt drenched by rain, at a bash in Sao Paulo. "We deserve this catharsis."
Most tourists were eager to go to the street parties, known as blocos. Rio has permitted more than 600 of them.
The biggest blocos lure millions to the streets, including one that plays Beatles songs with a Carnival rhythm for a crowd of hundreds of thousands. Such major blocos were called off last year.
"We want to see the partying, the colors, the people and ourselves enjoying Carnival," Sofia Umana, 28, a tourist from Chile, said near Copacabana beach.
The premier spectacle is at the Sambadrome. Top samba schools, which are based in Rio's more working-class neighborhoods, spend millions on hourlong parades with elaborate floats and costumes, said Jorge Perlingeiro, president of Rio's league of samba schools.
"What's good and beautiful costs a lot; Carnival materials are expensive," Perlingeiro said in his office beside the samba schools' warehouses.
"It's such an important party …It's a party of culture, happiness, entertainment, leisure and, primarily, its commercial and social side."
This year's Carnival will smash records at the Sambadrome, where about 100,000 staff and spectators are expected each day in the sold-out venue, as well as 18,000 paraders, he said.
Rio expects about 5 billion reais (about $1 billion) in revenue at its bars, hotels and restaurants, the president of the city's tourism agency, Ronnie Costa, said.
"Seeing this crowd today is a dream, it's very magical," said Costa. "This is the post-pandemic Carnival,… the Carnival of rebirth."
Rio's hotels are 85 percent full, said Brazil's hotel association, which said it expected last-minute deals to bring that figure near to its maximum. Small businesses are benefiting, too.
"Carnival is beautiful, people are buying, thank God all my employees are paid up to date," said Jorge Francisco, who sells sequined and sparkled Carnival accouterments at his shop in downtown Rio. "For me, this is an immense joy, everyone smiling and wanting. That's how Carnival is."
As Luciene Moreira, 60, a seamstress, sewed a yellow costume in samba school Salgueiro's warehouse, she said: "Yesterday I went to sleep at 3 in the morning. Today I'll leave earlier because I've lost my voice. You have to sleep later one day, earlier the next; otherwise, the body can't handle it. But it is very enjoyable."
Rio canceled the Carnival in 2021, and held a reduced version last year.
Agencies via Xinhua