At last count there are 523 blocos (neighborhood street parties) scheduled in Rio from now through Carnaval 2014. I've got news for you. If you come to Rio for Carnaval and don’t have a good time… you are probably in a coma. For a growing list of Rio’s blocos, go here.
All too often the mistake is made that Carnaval in Rio is all, and exclusively, about the main event: the over-the-top fantastic Carnaval Parade in the Sambadrome that takes place all night and into the dawn on Sunday and Monday nights. That is truly a once in a lifetime party that should be on your bucket list. But the spirit of the loooong holiday weekend is definitely embedded in Rio’s residents, its neighborhoods and the very organic eruptions of neighborhood pride packed into its Blocos.
Blocos are the free, no tickets required, popular street parties that are the main popular expression of Carnaval throughout Rio. Blocos typically include live music, parading, party/costume themes and sometimes a performance stage. The bigger events may include a trio elétrico. All blocos are a riot of music, beer, celebration, beer, community pride, beer, and just plain fun, fun, fun.
Make no mistake, Blocos are not unique to Rio. They are popular in cities all over Brazil. Wikipedia cites the Brazilian state of Pernambuco as the center of Brazil’s Bloco universe, noting that the biggest bloco “Galo da Madrugada” attracts more than 2 million people in downtown Recife.
Some folks have their favorite bloco. Some blocos have a long, storied history. Some blocos have morphed in character over time, growing into huge events. Some have outgrown their earlier appeal. More and more are starting to include chemical toilets (thank you city government rules enforcement). All of them will have countless street vendors selling beer, other beverages and lots of food. These parties are walk up events open to all.
Going to a bloco is a very low maintenance thing. Just put on some very comfortable clothes. Be prepared for rain. Take just your house key, ID and some money. Leave all your unnecessary documents at home. Blocos are by far and away safe events, but you know how “opportunity creates the thief.” Pickpockets love crowds. Take your patience with crowds and your spirit of adventure.
Go. Catch the vibe. Dance. Smile. Feel the love.