Brazil Carnival goes online with street parties banned

A member of the "Desliga da Justica" street band gets dressed in his spiderman costume in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The group's performance was broadcast live on social media for those who were unable to participate in the carnival due to COVID restrictions after the city's government officially suspended Carnival and banned street parades or clandestine parties. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
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Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Supergirl came out of the dressing room ready for action as usual. She took her place alongside Freddy Krueger, Poison Ivy and Captain America and they kicked off, into song.

That idiosyncratic lineup is a typical sort of lineup for the Carnival street band Desliga de Justica, but this year they were facing cameras in a studio and the fans were scattered across the internet instead of dancing in the streets during one of the world’s most iconic celebrations.

“Everybody at home, move the furniture out of the way to dance and drink cold beer,” called out the woman dressed as Poison Ivy, who began the show with a traditional Carnival song.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Rio to shut down its famed festival and threaten legal action against those who defy the ban to party. So groups like Desliga — the name is a Portuguese language play on “Justice League” — turned to online events for their backers, streaming music and dances via YouTube and other social media platforms.

This year, all members of the band took a PCR test for coronavirus on Sunday when they arrived at studio in the south of Rio.

Desliga has been holding the parties since 2009 and the gatherings have been growing ever since.

“When everyone is immunized, we are going to have the biggest Carnival that Brazil has ever seen. Wait for us until 2022,” said Supergirl, aka Carla de Freitas, 38. “We want everyone to be healthy and protected to have fun in peace”.

Brazil is still recording an average of more than 1,000 deaths a day from the pandemic and as in many countries, immunization campaigns have been lagging. The Sambadromes of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that normally throb with partying this time of year after being used as vaccination stations.

Rio’s mayor’s office reported that as of Sunday morning, it had closed four nightclubs that broke restriction rules and imposed seven fines for social distancing violations.

Still, some Carnival fans met in small groups of “bate-bolas” — revellers who dress up yearly in exuberant hand-made costumes each Carnival — for symbolic celebrations on Saturday.

“It’s very difficult, I’m not very emotional, but this (the cancelled Carnival) stirs emotions,” said Jonas dos Santos, who has been in charge of a group of bate-bolas for 31 years. “On the day we parade, it’s magical, fantastic. People come, the street is packed but this year we won’t have this. We feel a void, people say something is missing.”

With this year’s Carnival cancelled, most showed up in the Uncle Sam themed costumes they’d used last year and made a quick dash up a single street.

One of the biggest street party associations, Blocos da Sebastiana, this year organized workshops on Carnival makeup and instruments and offered playlists of their music.

“We would like to be partying on the street but we can’t.” said Rita Fernandes, president of Blocos da Sebastian. “Streamed shows are important, but symbolic. They bring us memories of Carnival and reaffirm what it means to us.

“But it doesn’t generate the same feeling.,” she added. “I did not dress up or dance in front of a screen.”