Sao Paulo and Rio, Carnival- Resistence or Separation?


I am trying to reconcile myself with where I am from.  Brasil, the land of syncretism, of inequality, of multitude of narratives, of joy, laughter. Sexuality that swets out of peoples bodies. The land of Carnival. And it is carnival, and I who never could see what was soo Brazilian of me, decided I would celebrate it in silence.

Then, I decided, I should go to Rio to discover carnival. So, I called Lu, a childhood friend and she agreed to it immediately . On the same night we were in a bus to Rio. Elisa, who hosted us, is from Rio but does not really like carnival, nor the beach. We are friends since we lived in NY. So Lu, who went with me, and I went to the streets to celebrate while Elisa went to visit her parents.

We got out, with the intention to reach a Bloco de Carnival.  Carnival is celebrated  all over in Brasil. Usually in the streets. Blocos are basically a block of music… There is a concentration of people in the streets dancing and parading. Blocos have different themes. Different music.  Different people listening , drinking, dancing in the streets. It is open and free to all.

Rio, is overtaken by blocos during the whole day all over the city during the carnival week. I had searched for my friend Paula on one last year on a broken foot. At the time I looked for Paula Gabriel, my friend I met during my Master at the LSE.  There was too many people last year and I had a broken foot and.  I just could not reach her.


This time,  we had phones, plans, and still it took a long time for me to find her. And when I did I felt relieved and happy. It felt like ” It took a year but I am here now”. Paula and I are writing a book together. I hugged her. And now I could be really in the bloco.

Brasil is a mix place. Yet like in Colombia there are 3 main groups the indigenous, the African descendents, and the outsiders… from Europe, from the middle east, asia etc. In Brasil, it seems to me that we are way more mixed than in Colombia.

In the blocos you see them all. So I was there enjoying the music.. when I saw a man in his 50s started a conversation with a blond Brazilian girl next to me. She refused him, he attacked her Brazilianess, she was obviously not Brazilian to him. I hated that man then. Yet I just observed him. And watched him grab a Mulata ( a mix of white and black woman) and pull her saying to his friend,, this one is a whore let’s take her.

I wanted to shout at him. This blond girl, this mulata, you  are all the same. Cant you see it?? We are all inheritors of this huge massacre that took place here, and still does. I did not.  Then seconds later I saw a drunk guy coming to the blond girl. She ignored him as well, than she was rude. And I being me, I went to talk to him. He eventually left furious.

“ This girl believes she is better than me because she is blond!? How can you be her friend? You are a good person I can tell”

He was drunk. He left. I suggested to him he should drink water. He should take care of himself. One part of me rememembered when I was in Colombia and started to cry when a boy left me dancing alone. It was not him, but the loneliness in the middle of the salsa that was unbearable to take. So I knew this boy, drunk as hell, felt so abandoned there in the middle of so much joy…. That it ached me.

Minutes later I saw a 5 years old black child lost. I asked him whether he needed help. He hesitated. Huge part of me knew he was poor, probably used to all of this. Yet a 5 year old lost in a crowd of beer and music and people desperate to send sadness away can  nor should ever be used to it? Should we? So I walked with him. Till we found his “cousins’ I still knew he would get lost again.. Someone else would help him agaom for 3 minutes. But I stayed with him for a while, explained his cousins he was too little, I stayed with him till he told me I could go.

“ Juliano, take care of yourself. I know you can do it alone. But we must take care of ourselves and others around”

He shook my hand. There was sooo much grief in his eyes… that after that…..I stood a bit more but I had to leave eventually. Grief in a 5 years old… it is too much.

I was exhausted.

I once wrote that I thought Joy was the last form of resistence. And this carnival I understood it… how much resistence even while laughing it is just still separation.


It truly was. It was this last attempt to not to let anything go in. NO matter what happens, it is to stay and laugh, and kiss, and attempt bold gestures with people who do not matter.

Yet, in the craziness of carnival, even the rejection of a blond unknown girl can hurt too much. It hurted me. Watching the joy of all singing songs of people who had pain. Who sent pain away.

There is some enormous beauty to carnival.  Yet it coexists with shallowness. Nothing can ever be too profound. Maybe it is because nothing can go really in. And then love, and joy, feels almost stolen from its proper correlations to sadness. In most people, and most places, but not in all..

I came home, and I bid farewell to my friend. I just had to listen to my body it was too much. I needed a rest. And so I took a bus back to Sao Paulo and I went for dinner, with my dear friend the brilliant pianist Benjamin Taubkin. We had Japanese food.

We talked about carnival. About life.  About music. I felt my carnival was finally taking place. I drove to the bar of Cidao to see my friends play. I did not even have to ask my favorite songs. They started playing the Choro “Desprezado” by Pixinguinha,

and then Migalhas de Amor  by Jacob do Bandolim,

when they saw me.  The know I love it.

There was this older lady there. I saw her listening to  the music. She was beautiful. She heard the Choro.  Choro is a kind of music that is a mixture of African rhythms and European ones…  the name choro means  “ cry,” or chorinho  “a little cry). And  I could almost see the music in her body travelling. I wrote her a message.  In a napkin something along the lines

“  You hear music in silence. It is so beautiful. Thank you for making my carnival more beautiful”

I folded it and took it to her. Then I went back to my seat and stayed there till the musicians had stopped playing. I felt such a joy. She came to me, and told me she was from the northeast. That she would keep my message. She thanked me. We hugged. In celebration of joy, of music, of recognizing music goes inside when we allow that we smile while feeling pain without costumes. We eventually let the music, and the people around unweave the sadness, in a celebration.

So in Sao Paulo, a place not known for carnival, I reconciled myself.  I heard music that unweaved me.


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