The 2019 Rio de Janeiro Carnival celebrations this year are already going down in history as a unique expression of the Brazilian people’s revulsion to President Jair Bolsonaro and their desire to see former President Lula da Silva freed.
At dawn on March 5, Paraiso do Tuiuti, a samba school from the Sao Cristovao neighborhood, entered the Sambodrome to perform “The Savior of the Motherland,” in a parade dedidated to former leftist President Lula. The school’s composers, however, were cautious and did not mention Lula’s name directly due to fear from “the dark times of a neo-fascist regime,” as reported by Brasil247.
This samba school is well known for its commitment to popular causes. Paraiso do Tuiuti was runner-up in the 2018 parade competition with “My God, My God! Is slavery extinct?,” which denounced Brazilian racism and made scathing criticisms of the coup against former leftist President Dilma Rousseff, an economist and the first woman to hold the Brazilian presidency from 2011 until her removal from office in 2016.
In the parade, Leonardo Morais, a history professor, dressed as a “neoliberal vampire” politician wearing Brazil’s presidential sash.
The Brazilian carnival director, Jack Vasconcelos, also paid homage to former President Lula, who is currently a political prisoner and has become a symbol of popular resistance.
Vasconcelos’s lyrics rang out at the Sambodrome as Brazilians danced: “You, who are part of this people, are going to learn of a living legend. He is from the northeast, bearded, small, born poor, loved by the humble and the intellectuals, an annoyance to the elite and burdened the people’s symbol. A Resistance Hero!”
One of this year’s favorites to win the 2019 carnival contest is the Estacao Primeira de Mangueira, a samba school whose routine in the parade told “the stories that history does not tell” — that is, “the story about the country’s important characters who are not portrayed in the books: the Indigenous, Black and poor people,” as Folha do Sao Paulo reported. “It was exciting to see the school’s colors, it’s flags bearing the face of Marielle Franco, a social leader killed almost a year ago.”
Besides celebrating the everyday lives of those who live in Rio’s poorest neighborhoods, Mangueira made a remembrance to the murder of Franco, an Afro-Brazilian member of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) and a feminist councilwoman who was critical of the right-wing government.
She was assassinated on Mar. 14, 2018, two weeks after she was named rapporteur in a special commission to monitor military intervention in Rio de Janeiro.