The worldwide famous Brazilian Carnaval is known for its vivid colors, cheerful sambas and bright costumes. This year instead, with the country facing the conservative wing’s influence, the 4 days party took a different path: protests against the growth of racism, religious intolerance and homophobia. Telling the tragic story the country has been going through since the rise of the new “Imperial Family”, the Bolsonaros.
During the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro every year, the “Samba Schools” parade competitively through the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, each school prepares during the previous year for the 1h15 parade. Celebrities are invited (or sometimes even pay) to be part of the party broadcast live for the whole world. The Samba Schools play a major role in their communities and their members usually are from middle to lower-classes, many of them coming from the “favelas”, thus, thousands of young and old brazilians dedicate their lives to the event that stops the country every year.
Rio de Janeiro faces a complex situation nowadays, being the place where Jair Bolsonaro, the President, became famous as a councilman at the end of the ’80s and afterward left for the Congress, leaving behind his three sons following his path: Flávio, elected Senator from the state of Rio, Carlos, elected councilman for Rio’s capital and Eduardo, elected congressman.
Last year, on March 14th, the councilwoman Marielle Franco, responsible for supervising the acts of the police in the favelas during the Military Intervention in Rio, was brutally murdered inside her car, alongside her driver. She was a sociologist, feminist and Human Rights defender, besides being a black woman, lesbian, born and raised at a favela in Rio. Next week will be the anniversary of her death and the police still “did not” find the responsible for her murder, so far the only official statement is that the bullets belonged to the Federal Police. But how does that relate to the Bolsonaros?
The President’s oldest son, senator Flávio Bolsonaro, today faces an investigation for involvement with the militia in Rio, while the main suspect of Marielle’s murder is a former Military Police captain (now a fugitive) whose wife and mother were part of the senator’s office in the last mandate. Thus, linking the main family in power with the militia that today is even more feared than the drug dealers in the country.
Therefore, it was expected that the Samba Schools would parade protesting against the government, but what they delivered was even more fascinating: the winner of Rio’s samba contest this year was the Samba School “Mangueira”, their parade told the story of indigenous natives and former black slaves as national heroes (different than what we learn in history books, where the portuguese are usually seen as so). In the images below we can see their trucks representing the colonization not as told in school, but from the eyes of the colonized: thousands of indigenous who died and were forced into european christian behaviors; black people who were enslaved in Africa and taken to Brazil and lastly, the so praised Military Dictatorship in the 70’s; and in their last truck paraded Marielle Franco’s widow, Mônica.
Pictures provided by Alexandre Andreatta (authorized).
Another traditional Samba School called “Vila Isabel” named after the Portuguese Princess Isabel, responsible for ending slavery in Brazil in 1888, paraded portraying the story of the former Imperial city of Petrópolis, depicting the importance of black people’s culture in the country’s history and the struggle to abolish slavery, but the most remarking part was the presence of Marielle Franco’s family in the last car of Vila Isabel’s parade. Two of the most traditional Samba Schools in the most celebrated event in the country paraded with the daughter, mother and wife of a woman who represented the antithesis of everything the Bolsonaro Family stands for: protection of human rights, freedom of religion, LGBT rights and fight against racism. They stood there for 1 hour and 16 minutes, holding a flag saying “Marielle present”, while dancing and singing the school’s samba of the year: In name of the Father, the Son and the Saints. Marielle Franco will forever be remembered as an example of human being and how a politician should be. A guide for those who still have hope that we will face this wave and grow stronger.