RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil– Millions of exuberant revelers poured onto the streets of Brazil on Monday as the country’s biggest block party, the annual bacchanal known as Carnaval, kicked into high gear amid marching bands, men dressed as brides and a kerfuffle over sex on parade.
From Salvador in the northeast to this famous beachside city in the south, Brazilians took advantage of a national holiday Monday to press on with celebrations that began over the weekend and that will stretch through most of Wednesday, when the Christian period of Lent begins.
HERE in Rio, all eyes are riveted on the lavish late-night parades in the specially designed Sambodrome stadium, where top samba clubs display spectacular floats and dancers wearing elaborate costumes – or hardly anything at all – in a competition for Carnaval’s coveted championship.
The talk of the town has been the entry by the Grande Rio club, whose effort to put the carnal in Carnaval has provoked the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church. The club’s theme, “Let’s put on a condom, my love,” celebrates the joys of safe sex and has earned the unusual approval of the United Nations’ AIDS organization.
But the archbishop of Rio declared his outrage over two floats with huge figures depicting couples practicing techniques in the Kama Sutra and Adam and Eve doing what, according to the Bible, gave rise to the rest of humankind.
THE archdiocese called the figures “indecent images” that would “disturb the peace” of Carnaval, which features nearly naked men and women gyrating to the deafening sounds of samba music.
The controversy highlighted the contradictions that reign in Brazil during Carnaval – and during the rest of the year. Bowing to the church’s objections in this predominantly Catholic nation, state officials ordered Grande Rio to cover up the offending sculptures.
Yet, the federal health ministry launched a condom giveaway campaign during Carnaval, and many Brazilians were left wondering what the fuss was about, especially here in a city that prides itself on its reputation for skin and sin.
Grande Rio’s artistic director, Joaosinho Trinta, dismissed accusations of lewdness.