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Where Brazil’s 99% watched Carnival in Rio

Where Brazil’s 99% watched Carnival in Rio

Posted by Juan Gavasa on February 17, 2015

Neuza Maria Terreira loves Carnival so much that neither the pouring rain nor the stench of a sewage-filled canal can keep her from getting as close as possible to Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous samba school parades.

Terreira is among hundreds of spectators who cannot afford a ticket to the vast grounds of the Sambadrome where Rio’s samba school parades are held, and instead watches the nightlong extravaganza from bleachers a few hundred meters (yards) from the parade route. Hundreds of other mostly poor people take in the parade from a nearby overpass, where some lounge in beach chairs and barbecue on portable grills.

Carnival is Brazil’s biggest popular party, but the masses are being excluded,” said Terreira, a 53-year-old public school teacher whose black slicker helped protect her from driving rains Sunday, the first of two main parade nights at the Sambadrome.

“Here, we have to endure the smell of that rotten canal there,” she said, gesturing at a sewage-filled waterway that separated the bleachers from the preparation area. There, on the other side, giant floats are hauled into place and dancers and musicians change into their over-the-top costumes as the 12 samba schools competing for this year’s title get ready to enter the runway.

Spectators wear plastic rain slickers as they watch the Viradouro samba school parade in the rain during the Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“We don’t actually see much,” said Terreira, “but it’s better than nothing.”

Rio’s Carnival has its origins in the streets, and samba schools bear the names of the hillside “favela” slums where they were born.

But while about 14,200 tickets are sold for around $4, prices for most seats start at over $75 and rise sharply from there, which is a small fortune in a country where the monthly minimum wage is $278. The most exclusive of the Sambadrome’s “camarotes,” or private boxes seating 30 people, fetch more than $42,000 nightly.

Many of the low-price tickets are ultimately snatched up by scalpers, who on Sunday were reselling them for $70 each, said Jorgelina Tunala, a 52-year-old housewife who braved the drizzle on the bleachers set up by the local government each year and offered free of charge to users on a first-come, first-served basis.

In past years, she was able to score a scalped ticket for the Sambadrome around $20, but this year wasn’t so lucky.

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