Skip to content
Mac Margolis

Brazilians Take Carnival Back to the Streets

Rio's official festivities have their charms. But they're nothing like the Christ’s Armpit block party.
The real party's outside the Sambadrome.

The real party's outside the Sambadrome.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Brazil’s postcard-perfect carnival competition officially kicks off at the parade grounds this Sunday, but the world’s most enthusiastic merrymakers have never stood on ceremony. For weeks now, the Cariocas, as Rio natives are known, have donned feathers and paint, mobbed the streets, and belted out provocative anthems.

One of this season’s biggest hits? “Alô, Alô Gilmar,” a sendup of controversial Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes, famed for ordering the release of big shots jailed in the country’s rolling corruption scandal. (The former Rio health secretary, accused of diverting $90 million from state coffers, was Mendes’s latest beneficiary.) “Hello, hello, Gilmar/I’m in jail, come set me free,” goes the refrain of the song, which quickly became a hit on the web.