The Rio Carnival came alive Saturday with hundreds of thousands of revelers in outlandish costumes pouring into the city center for a mammoth, samba-driven Brazilian street fest.
Drawing huge crowds a day after legendary King Momo declared the Carnival officially open was the Cordao da Bola Preta, the official name of one of Rio’s oldest and most popular blocos, or street parties.
While the eagerly awaited highlight of the Carnival, the parades of elaborately decorated fantasy floats and drop-dead gorgeous, scantily dressed women in the Sambadrome, attract mainly the wealthy and foreign tourists, blocos are for all.
“Bola Preta is one of the most traditional blocs of the Carioca (Rio) Carnival and everybody participates, particularly blacks” from the favelas, said Sandrah Sagrado.
“Bola Preta brings everybody together, people from all districts and neighboring towns,” Denise Chagas concurred.
Spurred on by the pulsating samba beat of a marching band, Bola Preta fans strutted along an avenue in outlandish costumes, from Cleopatra or Pope wannabes to clowns and cross-dressers wearing masks, bright red or fluorescent green wigs and oversized glasses.
Under sunny skies and in a good-natured atmosphere, men in baby diapers or wearing garish pink or green tutus marched down Rio Branco Avenue. Others sported Brazilian football star Neymar’s Mohawk hairstyle in multi-colored hues or tried to scare women in their monster disguises.
Black polka dots on white is the signature style for Bola Preta (black ball) outfits as, according to city lore, a beautiful, curvaceous woman in a polka-dot dress was the inspiration for the bloco’s name.
Igor Moreira, 23, and four friends came bedecked in a Winnie Mouse outfit, complete with polka dot skirts, black stockings and tops.
“It’s just for fun. This is Carnival, anything goes,” he said with a giggle.
It was all in good fun and no major incidents were reported. The municipal guard however briefly detained one rowdy reveler.
Organizers said more than two million people were expected to take part in the day-long merry-making.
Simone Lima, a 23-year-old street vendor, said this was her fourth attendance and pronounced herself happy with her brisk sales of soft drinks.
In 2008, as it celebrated its 90th anniversary, Bola Preta was listed as a Rio Cultural Heritage along with its signature song and Carnival classic “Quem Nao Chora Nao Mama” (“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”).