}

Americas

Politics crashes Brazil’s Carnival

Booming drums, pulsing block parties, shimmering costumes: These are the sights and sounds that for decades have defined Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s biggest party of its kind. But increasingly, a new element is crashing the annual bacchanal: politics.

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

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Terrence McCoy

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

In a country cleaved along racial, class and geographic lines, the mass gathering has become a vehicle for Brazilians to express their divisions. People are using the event to demand more racial and gender equality — and to condemn the rise of the populist conservatism of nationalist President Jair Bolsonaro.

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

A reveler in Rio holds a sign that reads “Out Bolsonaro."

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This year, elaborate floats have shown a black Jesus, crucified on the cross, beneath the word “Negro.”

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Mauro Pimentel/Afp Via Getty Images

Another demanded peace from gun violence.

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One performance showed Jesus being chased down and apprehended by police, as people sang that the “prophets of intolerance” were killing Jesus again.

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For the first time, a transgender woman led a drum section down the Sao Paulo Carnival grounds.

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Camila Prins, a transgender woman, gets her makeup done before performing for Colorado do Bras samba school in Sao Paulo on Saturday.

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Prins performs.

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For an ostensibly religious festival — it’s Brazil’s Mardi Gras, the last party before Ash Wednesday and Lent — the event is increasingly shunned by the religious. “God doesn’t approve,” one prominent evangelical pastor has written.

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Revelers kiss at the parade of the street Carnival group Afoxe Filhos de Gandhy in Salvador, Bahia state, on Sunday. Afoxe Filhos de Gandhy — the Sons of Gandhi — perform an Afro-Brazilian religious act to open the parade through the city center.

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Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a bishop in an evangelical megachurch, hasn’t concealed his disdain for his city’s biggest and most lucrative event. Last year, Bolsonaro tweeted a video of one man urinating on another — typifying, he suggested, the debauchery of the annual affair. “We have to expose the truth,” he said. “This is what many street parties during Carnival have turned into.”

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A shop in Sao Paulo sells masks of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ahead of Carnival.

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But at several block parties — called “blocos” — most appeared more interested in dancing and drinking than politics.

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Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

The other top priority: staying dry. Heavy rains drenched the first few days of the celebrations, flooding streets and providing a bit of business to some cash-strapped vendors.

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

“I need the rain,” said Bruno de Silva Barbosa, a vendor selling ponchos. “I need the money.”

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

The revelry continued around him — as did the calls for equality.

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post

Evgeny Makarov/For The Washington Post