RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes presented Carnival sovereign King Momo with the key to the city in a ceremony marking the official inauguration of the five-day pre-Lenten festival.
After accepting it from family members of Candonga, the artisan who made it long ago, Paes handed over the big gold key covered in stones to King Momo, who declared this year’s Carnival officially open.
Paes got into the spirit of the event by singing and dancing samba with the queen and princesses of King Momo’s court, accompanied by the band from the Salgueiro samba school, winner of last year’s Carnival parades.
The samba school parades at the Sambadrome are the essence of Rio’s Carnival, while in cities like Recife and Salvador the festival features massive street celebrations.
“This is the first Carnival of the Olympic city,” Paes said, recalling that Rio de Janeiro was elected to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“The mayor repeated his confidence in Rio’s “fantastic image” and said that, in the future, the city “will show what’s different about it more and more.”
“Rio has become a provisional monarchy,” the mayor joked. “Until Ash Wednesday, if you want to find the city’s official mayor, you’ll find him at the Sambadrome having fun,” he said.
Played by Milton Rodrigues Junior, King Momo was accompanied by Carnival queen Shayene Cesario and the two princesses of her entourage, Talita Martins and Suellen Pinto.
The event, held at city hall, was enlivened by the farcical Confraria do Garoto band carrying signs saying “Long live the monarchy” and “I love tourists.”
The ceremony of handing over the keys to the city has been held in Rio de Janeiro since 1933. At that time, King Momo was represented by a doll that was made to dance and parade among the crowd.
Nowadays the person in charge of opening the Carnival is chosen in a contest. He has to be a jolly fat man who dances the samba well and is able to infuse crowds with the Carnival spirit and get people partying non-stop.
A traditional Carnival figure, King Momo’s origins are to be found in Greek mythology as the son of sleep and the night, who was expelled from Mount Olympus for being such a joker and making fun of the other gods. EFE