Millions to attend as full-fledged Carnival returns to Brazil

Carnival returned to the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday after a two year hiatus. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI
Carnival returned to the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday after a two year hiatus. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- An estimated five million people began descending on Rio de Janeiro Saturday as Brazil's Carnival celebration returned at full blast following a two-year hiatus.

The festival is the biggest celebration in Brazil every year, but it was cancelled in 2021 and only held in a limited form last year due to COVID-19 .


Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said the festivities would help rebuild the country's image after the pandemic.

It also coincides with the new presidency of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , who defeated former President Jair Bolsonaro in elections last year. Bolsonaro had frequently criticized Carnival, saying that the street parties had degenerated into debauchery.

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"Two years ago, I thought I would never be able to deliver Carnival again," Paes told Bloomberg Friday as stilt-walking performers roamed the reception area and a brass band was poised to start trumpeting samba.

More than 400 parades of musicians and dancers are set to entertain attendees in the streets of Rio.

King Momo, the symbolic monarch during the carnival, played by Djferson Mendes da Silva, opened the festival by receiving the key to the city from Paes.


"After two years of pandemic, this Carnival is historic. It is with great honor that I declare Carnival officially opened," Mendes da Silva declared to the revelers at Rio's Palacio da Cidade, the mayor's residence.

During Carnival, Brazilians are also "celebrating democracy," the mayor added, referencing the failed insurrection by supporters of Bolsonaro last month.

"Brazil's institutions were once again put to the test, as has happened repeatedly throughout our history, and once again they showed themselves to be even stronger," he said during the ceremony.

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Brazil expects nearly 46 million people to attend the festival over the next five days, with revenues expected to total $1.55 billion.

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