Carnival in Olinda
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Along with Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Olinda has one of three most attended carnivals in Brazil; in 2006, more than 2 million people came to the carnival of Recife and Olinda.
The carnival of Olinda, however, is certainly the most popular in Brazil, in the sense that the party is protagonized by the people.
In Rio, the main attraction is the parade of samba schools, which take place inside a closed arena, called Sambódromo; in Olinda, no place is closed: every street and every corner in the Historic Center are taken by the partiers.
In Salvador, the animation is provided mainly by "trios elétricos" (electric trios), huge trucks with a monster sound system, driving slowly along the streets, with a band playing on top; detail: a rope isolates people who pay (and can get close to the trucks) from those who don't pay (and must stay outside the rope limits). In Olinda, the populars organize their own blocks, play their own music, follow their own paths.
The city government provides the infrastructure (transportation, security, marketing), and the people does the rest.
According to journalist and carnival specialist José Ataíde, it was in 1977 that the carnival of Olinda assumed these preferences for the masses which characterizes it today. Until that year, the carnaval had a committee to judge the performance of the blocks, much like it is in Rio today; there were, also, some specific places where the blocks should perform, always near the rooms reserved for the authorities.
In 1977, that was all abolished, and the carnival was known as "Carnaval of Participation"; ever since, the carnival in Olinda is open and free to everyone.
Children learn to party with their parents; grandparents recall the parties of times past. As there is no censorship whatsoever, the political and social satires are common in Olinda; the satires are present both in the music and in the costumes.
The Giant Puppets are an attraction by themselves. Made in papier-maché, dozens of these huge figures ( up to 5 meters or 15 feet) parade along the streets every year. The most famous puppet is the Homem da Meia-Noite (Man of Midnight) who, since 1932, at midnight of the Saturday, officially starts the carnival in Olinda; siding the Man, a multitude of rythms, including frevo, afoxés, caboclinhos and maracatus.
Every year, clones of Presidents, politicians and other personalities show up in the carnival of Olinda (Osama bin Laden and President Lula have been popular in recent years).
Also, it is not uncommon to see the personalities themselves coming to the party; here in Olinda, the famous and the anonymous people party side by side.
For more info, visit these official sites, maintained by the city government of Olinda (in Portuguese only):
Warning: the sites produce sounds.
Carnival in Olinda - 2004
Carnival in Olinda - 2005
Carnival in Olinda - 2006
Photos: city of Olinda.