Despite Zika virus, Brazilians still ready to party
Brazilians put off their worries about the Zika virus this past weekend as residents of Rio de Janeiro kicked off their pre-Carnival celebrations.
What is Carnival?
Carnival is a week-long fiesta much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Celebrations and parades are common throughout the entire country, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian states of Bahia and Pernambuco.
Carnival first started in the 1830’s as a continuation of the Portuguese tradition of ‘parting’ on the day before Lent begins.
Rio de Janeiro has one of the most prominent Carnival celebrations. It hosts more than 100 block parties, many of which are student supported, and staffed by the city’s samba schools. Rio’s carnivals, although influenced heavily by the favelas (poorest neighborhoods of the city), residents of these neighborhoods are often members of local samba schools and contribute the majority of group performances. Every neighborhood in the city general has its own street band, with a total of over 300 bands participating in the event. The celebration usually takes months to prepare, bringing together many types of cultures and people together.
Carnival doesn’t officially start until this Thursday, but Brazilians normally like to start the celebrations earlier. According to authorities, 300,000 residents of Rio de Janeiro have already taken part in the festivities over the weekend.
This has been a concern in recent months as the Brazil is one of a few South American countries where the Zika virus has spread rampantly. It is so severe that the World Health Organization is considering declaring a public health emergency, and is currently holding meetings to discuss the mosquito-borne disease.
Since November, Brazil has witnessed more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly in babies born to women who were infected with the Zika virus during their pregnancies. Locals and tourists are being encouraged to cover up and use adequate amounts of bug spray this Carnival.
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