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Short TimeLine of the Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro

1845 ---- Modern Brazilian Carnival finds its roots in Rio de Janeiro in the year 1845, when the city's bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, over time acquiring elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

1890's ---- In the late 19th century, the cordões (literally laces or strings in Portuguese ) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were groups of people who would parade through the streets playing music and dancing. Today they are known as blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or specials t-shirts according to certain themes or to celebrate the Carnival. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighbourhoods or suburbs and include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

These "blocos" have become a large part of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. There are more than 100 "blocos" nowadays and each year this number increases. Some are big, some are small, most concentrate in squares and later parade though the streets and a few stay in the same place all the time. Each "bloco" has its place or street to parade and the big ones usually close the streets to car traffic. They usually start in January and last till the end of Carnival, so since the beginning of the year you can see a group of people dancing & parading in any street of Rio on the weekends and during Carnival every day.

1920's ---- The first organised Samba schools were set up and some eventually co-incide with "Blocos". Samba has it's origins in Africa, after Brazil obolished slavery in 1888 freed slaves converged on Rio, slaves from the Bahia region appeared most active in promoting the Samba. "Blocos" parade in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico , and in the centre of Rio. Usually the people who organize the "bloco" write their own music, which is played at all time during the parade, along with old carnival favourites called in Portuguese "Marchinhas de carnaval", and sambas that have become classics. Some important "blocos" are "O cordão do bola preta", that goes through the heart of Rio's historical center, and "Suvaco do Cristo" ( Christ's armpit in Portuguese), in the neighbourhood, near Rio's Botanic Garden. Monobloco is another bloco that has become so famous that their band plays all year round in parties and small concerts.

video of MardiGras parade & celebrations in Rio de Janeiro  

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is known worldwide for its elaborate parades staged by the city's major samba schools in the Sambadrome and is one of Rio's major tourist attractions. Each samba school rehearses all year round for this event and all of its members take part in the rehearsals, whether experts or not. It is a place where people who always wanted to write a song, play a percussion instrument or choreograph a dance will have their opportunity. It is usual that during the carnival aristocrats dress up as commoners, men cross-dress as women, and poor people dress up as princes and princesses - social roles and class differences are expected to be forgotten once a year, but only for the duration of the festival.

Samba schools are very large, well-financed organizations that work year round in preparation for Carnival. Parading in the Sambadrome runs over four entire nights and is part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single samba school will be declared that year's winner. Blocos deriving from the samba schools also hold street parties in their respective suburbs, through which they parade along with their followers.