Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Memorable Moments from the Brazilian Carnival

Now that the party is finally over, Brazilian carnival and all its revelry can give way to a moment of reflection on its consequences, both good and bad. Apart from the problems caused by an excess of alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex and violence, there is a whole other side to carnival that had continued to titillate the media: the world of celebrity gossip.

The importance of Carnival in Brazilian culture cannot be overplayed. Love it or hate it, the Party has bestowed joy on its anonymous masses, fired up those with an opportunistic unbridled penchant for the pursuit of fame, and destroyed the reputation of public figures who have lost all reason and personal boundaries.

Carnival sets the scene for many such reports and the Brazilian blogosphere willingly assists in their dissemination. Check out the following for some magical, shameful, irreverent, controversial and entertaining flashbacks from this important Brazilian extravaganza.

1978 – His Majesty and Cinderella Black 

Sharing a video of the moment, Alisson Gothz’s blog Trash 80s remembers the year that Prince Charles indulged his inner samba:

Tudo aconteceu quando ele foi conhecer de perto uma escola de samba. Super entusiasmado, Charles ficou encantado com a mulata Piná. Quebrando todas as regras de protocolo real, ele simplesmente se jogou no samba e tentou acompanhá-la, dançando super atrapalhado. Mas o que vale mesmo é a intenção, né?

It all happened when he went to check out a samba school. Captivated by the scene, Charles became charmed by the lovely Piná. Breaking all the rules of royal protocol, he let the samba take him over and tried to follow her, in his own clumsy way. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

Prince Charles tries to samba with Pinah in 1978. Photo by Terry Fincher shared on the Trash 80’s blog

Prince Charles tries to samba with Pinah in 1978. Photo by Terry Fincher shared on the Trash 80’s blog

1983 – Schwarzenegger at the Rio carnival: funny or shameful?

Everything happened when Schwarzenegger was invited to make a documentary to promote the Rio carnival. The result was catastrophic. Below, the view of blogger Cris Lasaitis:

Se você achava George W. Bush o joão-bobo supremo da política americana, talvez mude de opinião ao ver este documentário resgatado dum obscuro arquivo televisivo dos anos 70 [sic], estrelado por ninguém menos que o governator da Califórnia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, desbravando a selva de um país mui pitoresco… Quem não viu, morra-se de rir. Ou de vergonha alheia

If you thought George W. Bush was the village idiot supreme in American politics, you might want to think again after watching this documentary, rescued from an obscure 1970s TV archive and starring none other than the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he braves the jungle of a picturesque country… You’ll either die laughing or crying at the shame of others.

1984 – The Brazilian carnival muse is a man

We are of course talking about the transsexual Roberta Close. The blog Anos 80 Incríveis posted this on the subject:

(…) a revista Playboy estampou-a na capa da edição de maio de 1984. Pela primeira vez na história do periódico, a principal atração não era uma belíssima mulher, mas um “homem”. A chamada da capa da revista era: “Incrível. As fotos revelam por que Roberta Close confunde tanta gente”

(…) Playboy stamped it on the cover of May 1984. For the first time in the magazine’s history, the main attraction was not a beautiful woman but a “man”. The headline of the cover read: “Awesome. Photos revealing why Roberta Close confuses so many people.”

Photograph of Roberta Close, published on the anos80incriveis blog.

Photograph of Roberta Close, published on the anos80incriveis blog.

1989 – The controversial beggar Christ

Describing “a time, not so long ago, in which extolling the wonders of Brazil was considered a sign of alienation”, the blog Geografia e Tal tells the story of the allegorical float “Beggar Christ” conceived by “the late carnavelesco Joãosinho Trinta [pt] (1933-2011)”:

Procession of the Beija-Flor samba school in 1989. Photograph shared on the Geografia e Tal blog.

Procession of the Beija-Flor samba school in 1989. Photograph shared on the Geografia e Tal blog.

foi na mesma [Escola de Samba] Beija-Flor [de Nilópolis], em 1989, que Joãosinho deu um tapa na cara dos críticos ao colocar na avenida um desfile revolucionário, diferente de tudo o que já tinha sido realizado até então, o antológico “Ratos e Urubus, Larguem Minha Fantasia“, quando a Sapucaí foi invadida por uma turba de excluídos, mendigos, meninos de rua e desocupados, regidos com maestria ao som do empolgante samba-enredo interpretado magistralmente por Neguinho da Beija-Flor. Foi uma verdadeira catarse coletiva, de proporções épicas.

(…) O carro alegórico “Cristo Mendigo” foi censurado por ser considerado ofensivo à Igreja e, numa sacada criativa, totalmente coberto com um plástico preto, com uma faixa com os seguintes dizeres: “Mesmo proibido, olhai por nós!””

it was the same [Samba school] Beija-Flor [from Nilópolis], in 1989, in which Joãosinho staged a slap in the face of the critics by putting on parade a revolutionary procession unlike anything that had been done before. The magnificent “Ratos e Urubus, Larguem Minha Fantasia“[pt], saw Sapucaí invaded by a mob of hoodlums, beggars, street children and the unemployed, masterfully choreographed to the sound of rousing samba artfully played by Neguinho of Beija-Flor. It was truly a moment of collective catharsis, and one of epic proportions.

(…) The “Beggar Christ” float was censored because it was considered offensive to the Church, so a creative solution saw it fully covered with black plastic and a banner that read: “Even banned, watch over us!”

1994 – Lilian e Itamar: opportunism trumps ingenuity

On the sex scandal of the then President, Itamar Franco, in the Sambadrome in Rio in 1994, Arthur Gandini blogs this:

Acho que poucas fotos na história da política brasileira causaram tanta repercussão e surpresa.

Com exceção dos flagras de políticos em crimes, só consigo pensar na célebre imagem do ex-presidente Itamar Franco, no carnaval, ao lado da modelo [Lilian] Ramos, mostrando em um ângulo por baixo que a moça não usava calcinha

Few photos in the history of Brazilian politics have resulted in so many repercussions and so much surprise.

With the exception of the occasional snaps of politicians involved in crime, I can only think of the infamous image of former President Itamar Franco, at the carnival, next to model [Lilian] Ramos, taken from an angle that reveals the girl was not wearing panties.

Itamar and Lilian at the sambódromo - Photograph shared by the marcosalfredo blog

Itamar and Lilian at the sambódromo – Photograph shared by the marcosalfredo blog

2007 – Black Ball Carnival Group (Bloco Cordão do Bola Preta) becomes the Cultural Heritage of Rio de Janeiro

In 1918, a Carnival group was founded with the provisional name of “Only if you drink water.” The members would gather in the bars of the old Galeria Cruzerio in downtown Rio, and pass around a beautiful Pierrette (a female Pierrot) dressed in black-spotted white outfit.  Thus the group’s new name was born – Cordão do Bola Preta [pt] – and in 2007 they were declared a Cultural Heritage [pt] by the City of Rio de Janeiro.

Revellers from the group Cordão do Bola Preta celebrating more than 95 years of tradition in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Sergio Araujo Pereira on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Revellers from the group “Cordão do Bola Preta” celebrating more than 95 years of tradition in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Sergio Araujo Pereira on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site