You can’t mention Brazil and February in the same sentence without mentioning the absolutely insane partying that goes on all over Brazil. I’m talking about Carnaval. The massive celebration Brazilians revel in during their version of what we would call Mardi Gras. However, what some people don’t know is that the entire month leading up to the “week” of Carnaval there are massive block parties all over Rio de Janeiro, as well as all over Brazil. This time I was lucky enough to be in Rio for the last two weeks of February, all the way up to the last days of the actual week of Carnaval between the first and second week into March.
The first day I arrived in Rio our friend invited us to the beach followed by a “bloco” in Copacabana. We had no idea what a bloco was…our friend said it was a block party but we were still a little unsure of what was going to go on. We got to the beach around 5pm. I was wearing a long skirt and a cute tank top…whoops, bad idea. I guess I didn’t realize in Rio you always wear your swimsuit when you’re going to the beach, even if it’s at night. My friend Cory and I were the only ones in normal clothes, haha we made quite the entrance. All the Brazilian girls were just staring at us like who are these newbs?? Oh well. After a few hours at the beach we headed to the first bloco at the start of Copacabana beach in Leme. With no idea what to expect, this was much more than a typical “block party.” There were people dressed up in all sorts of outrageous costumes. Some people were on stilts, others wearing chicken costumes, some even in banana suits. There was so much going on, almost chaotic, but under control at the same time, just a bunch of people having a good time.
In one area of this bloco there was a large band assembled of young people playing music. In front of that people were all over the place drinking and dancing. Behind the band were kids skateboarding and playing soccer in the street. It was your typical Brazilian scenario that you’d imagine to see. Kids actually do really play soccer everywhere in Brazil and it’s extremely entertaining to watch, they’re ballers. The energy of this bloco was overwhelming. We bought a bottle of vodka, a few beers and danced the night away. After a few hours we went home that night with huge smiles on our faces.
At first we assumed these block parties were just a once in a while type thing. However, after waking up the next morning to a text asking when we’d be ready for the beach and another bloco, we quickly realized this was about to happen again, and maybe over and over again. I was pumped. If it was anything like the first I knew it was going to be a grand time. We quickly learned there were multiple block parties, all day, every day, leading up to the big week of Carnaval where then there would be even more, even more frequent.
This next bloco started promptly at one pm. Time to get up and pretend to not be hung over. We had to keep up with the Brazilians after all. We walked down the street to a local fruit market and picked out some bananas and strawberries for breakfast. We made one last stop before heading out. I had to feed my acai craving. After a night of drinking, nothing in the world can work magic like a perfectly blended ice-cold acai. Mmmmm!
We headed out on foot from the fruit stand and after getting terrible directions from the guy at our hostel; we were lost, wandering the streets. After about an hour we ended up at the bloco and miraculously found our friends. This bloco was located on the walkway around Logoa. Logoa is known as the neighborhood around the lagoon in Ipanema. The Lagoa is about ten blocks inland from Ipanema beach. Without having any expectations for this day bloco, my mind was blown once again.
This one unlike the first and was more of a parade. The more traditional celebrations are parades led by samba schools. This first day bloco in Lagoa is how most of the blocos were. People were drinking, walking and dancing behind the band as they move down the blocks. You learn to follow the music. Your ears will point you in the direction you want to go. I especially loved the glitter lady, whom I ended up seeing everywhere for the next coming weeks! She was selling vials of glitter to throw all over our bodies.
One of the best things about Brazil is the possibility of anything at anytime; you never know what’s coming next. We taxied to another bloco in Laranjeiras after Logoa. We met some friends and danced next to the float for a few hours. I was starting to think I had a version of the samba down…realistically, I didn’t at all. It must’ve been a little while, because soon the cops were ending it and pushing for the roads to be back open. Real buzz kill. We started to wander the streets aimlessly drinking beer and watching the foolishness unfold around us. We stopped at a crosswalk when this group of women started dancing. They had me intrigued. After a few drinks I was feeling good, having a good time and decided to dance with the women, they loved it. This resulted in an invite to all of us up to their bloco up in the favela. This bloco was up in the favela of Cardoso Junior. Typically favelas are a no-go zone, however we were with locals and plenty of guys this time. The women were extremely friendly and we used our best judgment. But be warned, favelas are not always the best idea.
This bloco was called Xupa Mas Nao Baba, translating into “suck but don’t drool.” The ladies kept yelling at their friends as we walked the next thirty minutes uphill to the party, “cerveja, cerveja!”
Those ladies loved their beer.
To sum up the night, I can say my face hurt from smiling and laughing so hard. We literally danced, laughed, and drank into the wee hours of the morning with people we hadn’t known for more than just a few hours.
They treated us like we were our old friends coming over for a party. After these few blocos in the first 24 hours in Rio, I was hooked.
Two weeks later, Carnaval started. Carnaval is five days of insanity and mayhem, all in the best possible way. Businesses shut down, classes are cancelled, and the whole city is in party mode. You go to blocos all day long, and then nights typically end up with wandering to Ipanema beach. Usually unaware of the craziness the night would bring or what time we’d eventually make it home. We went to blocos in Centro, Santa Teresa, Flamengo, and Botofogo.
The three weeks I spent in Rio was unlike anything before, filled with non-stop madness and adventure. Everyday my love for this city grew. I was on the high of a lifetime.