February 7, 2018 at 3:00 pm EST | by Felipe Alface
The LGBT side of Carnival in Brazil

São Paulo’s 2017 Carnival parade had a large LGBT contingent. LGBT Brazilians are a prominent part of Carnival parades and celebrations throughout the country. (Photo courtesy of Felipe Alface)

SÃO PAULO — Street Carnival in Brazil is visibly LGBT friendly, and celebrations happen throughout the entire month of February — before, during and after the actual Carnival that will be celebrated from Feb. 9-14.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has the most famous and organized street Carnival in Brazil with more than 460 groups. Considered the largest Carnival by the Guinness World Records, Rio de Janeiro has no LGBT-specific street Carnival groups, but the most famous ones are known for being inclusive and friendly, which makes some of them the best gay choices for fun and flirting.

The most traditional group in Rio is “Banda de Ipanema” and that makes it the choice for everyone to get the party started on Feb. 10. Filled with all kinds of people, it’s a safe choice for LGBT people looking for a good time. Another big crowd pleaser is the group “Sargento Pimenta” or “Sergeant Pepper.” Known for transforming Beatles songs with samba beats, this group traditionally attracts hipster and modern crowds wherever it goes. Before they take to the streets in Rio on Feb. 12, they take the streets in São Paulo in one of the most anticipated pre-Carnival events in the city that happens traditionally on the Saturday before Carnival week. And their parade literally forms the biggest pre-Carnival crowd in São Paulo, usually forcing the group to take detours in their selected streets due to the never-ending crowds.

São Paulo

One of the most LGBT-friendly cities in Brazil, São Paulo has the most traditional LGBT groups of street Carnival in the country. Most of them are known for their pre-Carnival parades and some of them take a piece of the city to call their own.

Thrown by the Sexual Diversity Museum of São Paulo, the group “Será que é?”, which roughly translates as “Is he gay?” has the mission of mixing the joy and fun of Carnival along with the concepts of inclusion and a culture of peace and respect of all LGBT people. 2018 is the second year the museum has taken to the street as a Carnival group. Its parade took place on Feb. 3 on Rua Agusuta, which is one of the most known gay streets of São Paulo.

The most competitive day of street Carnival everywhere is usually the Saturday of Carnival, which is on Feb. 10 this year, when everyone is starved to get the party started and that is the reason the biggest groups take the to the streets all over São Paulo on that day. One of them is “Minhoqueens,” a street Carnival group that celebrates drag queens in their parade with a lot of gay divas and pop music coming from its DJs’ pickup trucks. The group is not focused only on Carnival, but in throwing parties and events throughout the whole year with a motto of seeking inclusion and recognition to the LGBT community.

Another group done by and for gay people that will take to the streets on Saturday for the first time is “Gaymada,” a group that promotes gay games of dodge ball as a form of taking over some of the most famous parks and public places of the city with fun and color.

The post-Carnival of São Paulo has in “Siga Bem Caminhoneira” one of the most famous lesbian street Carnival groups. Although gay men and everyone else are welcome, the collective has the lesbian visibility as their objective and insists that female empowerment and protagonism is their reason to celebrate Carnival.

The same association that organizes the São Paulo Pride Parade, considered the biggest Parade in the world with more than 5 million people, also throws a fun post-Carnival street event. It happens on Feb. 17 and it wants to take a message against prejudice and the exclusion of LGBT people. The organization of the “Diversity” street group also declares everyone is welcome to take to the streets in their post-Carnival festivities.

Fortaleza

Some places, like Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil, have its most famous LGBT street Carnival thrown by “As Travestidas,” a collective of cross-dressing artists who promotes parties, theater and performing pieces, shows, debates and many other visibility oriented arts and events, like their famous pre-Carnival that happens every Saturday during January until the beginning of actual Carnival. They don’t make their parade about any specific LGBT political issue, but just the fact the group exists and takes thousands of people to the streets to celebrate the pre-Carnival period makes their visibility a true political statement.

2018 Carnival mixes visibility, gay rights

2018 is definitely the year to mix visibility and gay rights with Carnival in Brazil.

For the first time the Brazilian LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is releasing a Carnival campaign with the slogan: “Carnival is about fun, say no to LGBT phobia.” The campaign is also backed up by two of the biggest and most victorious samba schools of São Paulo: Vai-Vai and Império de Casa Verde, this last one also threw a party to launch the campaign and released an LGBT exclusive section in their parade and within the samba school. Vai-Vai, the biggest winner of the samba schools in São Paulo, also held a launch party at a hotel.

According to Brazilian LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Ricardo Gomes, the importance of launching the campaign at Império de Casa Verde headquarters was huge because the samba school’s entire community became involved with the campaign.

“We know that the LGBT community is accepted in the universe of Carnival as headliners, makeup artists, hairdressers, designers and so many other professions that make the samba schools wheels rolling,” said Gomes. “However our intention with this campaign is that LGBT people are accepted more than as Carnival workers or participants, but as people who deserve to be respected in their sexual and gender identities.”

Felipe Alface is a Brazilian author of the novel "Cicatrizes e Tatuagens" ("Scars and Tattoos") and digital content specialist.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.
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