Saturday Apr 23, 2022
Rio de Janeiro´s carnival, a glittering, sequin-studded festival of the flesh, exploded back to life Friday with the first famed samba school parades since Covid-19 hit Brazil.
After two long years of face masks, social-distancing and death, a sparkling sea of dancers, drummers and multi-storey floats reclaimed the "Sambadrome," the iconic beach city´s carnival parade venue, which had been turned into a drive-through vaccination center at the height of the health crisis.
The all-night parades by the city´s top samba schools Friday and Saturday are the first since February 2020, marking a turning point for hard-hit Brazil, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 660,000 lives -- second only to the United States.
"I´m just so happy. I think a lot of people are going to cry... including me," said Ana Vieira, a 48-year-old geography teacher, who was wearing a giant, glistening white costume to parade for the Imperatriz samba school.
"Carnival is life. You can see the happiness on people´s faces after two long years staying home and missing it," Vieira, who has been parading for 20 years, told AFP.
The festivities were hit by tragedy, however, when an 11-year-old girl died after being injured in a float accident during a lower-level samba school parade contest Wednesday.