Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is known for its resilience against wars, diseases, and political turmoil, but the pandemic has forced its indefinite suspension, greatly affecting the city and its residents. Since its inception over a century ago, it has managed to endure the Spanish flu pandemic, two world wars, labor strikes, political repression, and a dengue outbreak. However, the suspension of the official carnival parade due to the pandemic has impacted the city’s economy and denied its citizens of a moment of catharsis, which they look forward to year-round.
The city’s leading samba organizations decided to suspend the carnival parade, depriving the city of an essential source of revenue and its citizens of performances that often provide political commentary. It is unclear how Rio residents will celebrate the carnival when the festivities are scheduled in February. Moreover, the pandemic has forced the cancellation of hundreds of mobile and spontaneous street parties that draw thousands of revelers, also known as blocos. As a result, Rio’s 2021 carnival is expected to be significantly different and smaller than any recent memory, which is a significant loss.
The pandemic has hit Rio de Janeiro hard, with a death toll of over 18,000 in a state with 16 million people. For the people involved in preparing the carnival, the loss is not just emotional but also financial. The mighty army of dancers, choreographers, costume makers, and set designers, who collaborate to produce the dazzling costumes and floats, are struggling to make ends meet. The economic crisis has pushed them towards finding alternative sources of income, such as making face masks instead of costumes. The pandemic has deprived the people of Rio de Janeiro of a vital source of relief and entertainment, and many fear that they will lose their chance to hold the country’s politicians accountable through their allegorical and satirical samba performances.