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For the first time in 100 years, the Rio de Janeiro carnival interrupts its parades for the coronavirus


Rio de Janeiro postponed its annual Carnival parade and noted thursday that the world show cannot be held due to Brazil's continued vulnerability to the pandemic.

The Independent League of Samba Schools (LIESA) announced that the spread of coronavirus has made it impossible to safely carry out traditional parades that are a cultural pillar and, for many, a source of sustenture.

Carnival is a party on which many humble workers depend. Samba schools are community institutions and parades are just a detail of all that, said Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in the Rio Carnival. An entire cultural and productive chain has been interrupted by COVID.

The City Council of Rio de Janeiro must still announce a decision on the Carnival street festivities that are also held throughout the city. But his tourism promotion agency said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on September 17 that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can be held again.

The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Brazil was recorded on February 26, a day after the end of this year's edition of Carnival. As the number of infections grew, schools samba participating in the annual parade suspended preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday's announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has loathe over the city, one of the most affected by the pandemic in Brazil.

Almost all of Rio's samba schools are closely related to working-class communities. His processions include elaborate allegorical chariot accompanied by drummers and costumed dancers who sing at full throttle to impress a panel of judges. Tens of thousands of spectators crowd the bleachers of the arena, known as the Scodrome, while tens of millions watch the show on television.

Before schools began competing in the 1930s, Carnival was held in ballrooms and in a messy way on the streets, Simas said. The parades passed to the squalromo in the 1980s, becoming the personification par excellence of Carnival in Rio.

The immense work required for each show was initially obstructed by the restrictions that the governor of Rio imposed in March on the meetings. Even with these measures, the metropolitan region of Rio, where 13 million inhabitants live, accumulates to date more than 15,000 deaths per COVID-19.

Under the stands of the Samdrome, the city set up a shelter for the homeless and vulnerable population in the times of the pandemic.

Samba schools suspended the construction of their floats, sewing their costumes, dance rehearsals and also social projects. The Mangueira school program in the favela near Rio that teaches music to children to keep them away from crime and cultivate future school percussionists, has not taught since March.

The fever of all the suburban cities of Rio such as Nilopolis, whose 160,000 inhabitants cheer on the Beija-Flor samba school, has disappeared, according to Simas.

Some of the participating artists resorted to occasional works and concerts. Diogo Jesús, the principal dancer who holds the title of master of ceremonies at mocidade school, could not gather for rent without his entry from private events. He began to be an Uber driver and sew masks to sell at a fair.

It was a blow. We live the Carnival all year round and many people when they warned that everything would stop without getting sick or depressed, Jesus said in an interview inside his home in Madureira, a neighborhood in northern Rio. Carnival is our life.

The previous time a Rio Carnival was suspended was in 1912 due to the death of the foreign minister. The mayor of Rio, then capital of Brazil, postponed two months all permits for the popular Carnival festivities of the dance associations, according to Luís Cláudio Villafañe, diplomat and author of the book The Day they postponed the Carnival. The mayor also expressed his rejection of irregular celebrations, but many rions organized their street parties in any way.

World War II did not deter the realization of the celebrations. People crowded the streets every year for more than two decades of military dictatorship until 1985. Government censors checked the costumes, floats, and lyrics of the songs.

Then came the coronavirus.

We must wait for the next few months for whether or not there will be a vaccine, and when the immunization will take place, Castanheira of LIESA told the press in Rio on Thursday. We don't have the security conditions to set a date."

Due to the coronavirus, Rio City Council cancelled traditional plans for its second most massive party, New Year's Eve, which attracts millions of people to Copacabana Beach to witness the impressive fireworks show. This month, the city's tourism promoter, Riotur, announced that major tourist sites will host light and music shows that will be broadcast online.

The delay of the Carnival parade will deprive the state of Rio of the much-needed tourism revenue. In 2020, carnival attracted 2.1 million visitors and generated R$4 billion ($725 million) in economic activity, according to Riotur. The agency did not need on Thursday in a statement the fate of the street parties that accompany the Carnival.

Some parties are small, for example one involving dozens of dog owners who display their pets in wigs or hats. However, most are characterized by raucous music for the thousands of participants who dance, kiss and drink alcohol during the celebration. The largest attracts more than two million people.

Rita Fernandes, president of Os Blocos da Sebastiana, said her association has already cancelled its 11 street parties that together attract 1.5 million participants. Most other groups will do the same, he said.

We cannot be irresponsible and bring crowds to the streets, he added, after mentioning the second wave of contagion in Europe.

After several weeks of decline in daily infections, the Rio authorities have begun to express concern about an increase. Public spaces such as beaches have been crowded in violation of pandemic-related restrictions.

A percussionist at Mangueira's samba school, Laudo Braz Neto, said the children he gave instruction to before the pandemic show apathy, and is aware that there can be no Carnival without security for all.

Carnival will only take place when everyone can travel. It's a spectacle that the world sees, brings revenue and movement here, he said. I have no hope for 2021.

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