Many aspects of Brazil are still a mystery to me—which is what makes it so interesting—but I’m able to decipher a few clues by now.
Like, if rows of portable toilets suddenly appear in public spaces, an event is going to happen. Not a very glamorous prelude, I know, but a very informal way to say “hey, guys, something fun is about to start.”
And if you see people filling up coolers with beer at the supermarket, you can be sure that said event is imminent.
This is exactly how my afternoon went last Saturday.
I went straight to Meireles. The beach is usually the place to be on weekends, so I was hoping to read a book and just soak up the sun and the atmosphere. And this is what I did until I got thirsty. I didn’t feel like having a coconut or a beer, the most popular beach options, so I walked to the nearest supermarket tucked right behind Praia de Iracema.
And on my way, I spotted rows and rows of portable toilets.
And at the supermarket, customers in front of me and behind me in the long queue all had coolers full of beer.
Did Brazil celebrate something on… what day were we… January 21?
Some local deity I’ve never heard about, maybe?
I pulled my phone out of my bag and started reading the event section in the local paper.
This was Brazilian Portuguese 101—“pré-carnival,” “blocos,” “concentração.”
Carnival, already. Well, not Carnaval, still a month away, but pre-Carnival, i.e. a fun excuse to party every weekend until Carnival. There’s a post-Carnival period as well, by the way.
For the first time in two years, blocos, these massive street carnival parties, are back.
The nearest one was starting soon. I rushed to it.
At 3:30 p.m., drums were being unloaded from trucks.
At 3:45 p.m., the bloco showed up.
At 3:55, the cordeiros set up the rope around them.
And soon enough, we were thousands dancing to the music.
The entire Beira Mar avenue was closed to traffic, and three separate blocos with revellers took over the streets.
I took a break after a while, and I came back at night—the party was still going on.
It made me happy to see people happy. I feel alive, and hopeful.