Rio Carnival – The Greatest party on Earth!
Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. .
Rio Carnival is a wild 4 day celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Saturday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival with all its excesses, celebrated as a profane event, can be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It usually happens in February/early March, the hottest months in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak.
The Gay Carnival
Rio Carnival’s gay celebrations start way before anything official even begins. Take a tour and stop by Mangueira samba school, where teams are always rehearsing, and LGBTQ pride reigns supreme!
Blocos da rua (street block parties) are infused with a small amount of playful sexuality and gender fluidity. But, a handful of blocos are widely recognized as gay-friendly (or GLS, the Portuguese acronym for gay, lesbian, and sympathizers.) During Carnaval, be prepared for drag queens, overly indulgent and colorful parades along with an “anything goes attitude” .Check out the gay-themed parades such as Bonitos do Corpo (“beautiful bodies”), a tribute to Brazilian beauty and the human form.
Hit the streets at Banda de Ipanema (Farme de Amoedo Street) for some fabulously gay street parties. Several street bands and groups stop the traffic at strategic points of the city and some of them constitute the “official” Gay Carnival in Rio. The Banda de Ipanema opens the Carnival festivities two weeks before the official date, organizing three parades during this great Brazilian event. This street band attracts a large number of drag queens who personify different images, from the most classical ones, such as Carmen Miranda, to the most bizarre or grotesque ones, which certainly guarantees the funniest moments with much art as well.
Most of the samba schools make tributes to gay icons as they parade through the streets. In fact, many attendees—LGBTQ or otherwise—hit up this parade with the singular intention of kissing as many people as possible. If you want to take part of the street festivities, you have one more reason to do it: they are all for free!
These parades are highly organized, fierce competitions between clubs who develop their own themes. Young and old, hundreds of Brazilians in official Sumba clubs compete and spend millions on elaborate costumes, entertainers and music. Clubs are complete with drag queens in fabulous outfits.
Carnival ends with this Saturday night’s Champion’s Parade—essentially the best of Carnival. In addition to the Rio Samba Parade in the Sambodromo, there are 456 blocks parties and parades and several official Balls—including an LGBT Ball—around town.
Scala Rio Gay Ball
For those who prefer private parties, there are the classic gay carnival balls. Gala Gay at Scala, situated in Leblon, is on Carnival Tuesday and it is the most traditional one. It concentrates the most exotic personalities with the most luxurious costumes. We think it is important to warn that Scala Gay is televised, so if you don’t want to be caught, don’t forget to take your mask!
Both floors at the Scala are packed with revelers with masks and costumes dancing to the samba beats provided by live bands dressed in full costume. All you need to have is an open mind and be prepared to dress to impress for an unforgettable experience at one of Rio’s biggest events.
The very famous B.I.T.C.H party, from which abbreviation (Barbies in Total Control Here)is on the Sunday of Carnival in conjunction with The Week Party. Dama de Ferro, in Ipanema (Vinicius de Moraes Street) is an alternative/gay friendly disco which promotes thematic parties with the most remarkable national DJ’s and international guests playing live.
Don’t forget to try at least one night in the Sambadrome, the epicenter of Carnaval celebrations. Here, samba schools compete during the one of the biggest open-air festivals in the world. (Tickets are essential)