RIO DE JANEIRO – Cordao da Bola Preta, Rio de Janeiro’s longest-serving and most popular Carnival troupe, celebrated on Saturday its first centennial with a spectacular parade that was followed by at least one million people through the streets of downtown Rio.
Bola Preta (Black Ball), as it is commonly known, was one of the first Carnival “blocos” to come out on Saturday, of the close to 80 troupes that are participating on the same day. It is estimated that around six million people, including 1.5 million tourists, will take part in the free street parties this year in Rio de Janeiro.
Bola Preta kicked off its parade at around 10 am after a short statement by the troupe’s president, Pedro Ernesto, and after the crowd chanted a birthday song to mark the 100-year anniversary. “Without your joy and your presence, this bloco would not be alive,” Ernesto shouted to the crowd.
The most enthusiastic participants seemed to be the bloco’s godmother, singer Maria Rita; and its flag-bearer, actress Leandra Leal, who have become emblematic representatives of Bola Prieta.
Organizers were expecting 1.5 million people to join in the troupe’s street party, which always draws huge crowds every Saturday of Carnival.
The crowd of revelers, many dressed in flashy costumes, marched behind the band dancing to the rhythm of the traditional “marchinhas” songs, some of which are centenarian and commonly known by heart. Some participants carried banners with ironic, political and even religious messages.
During Rio’s six-day Carnival, which ends on Ash Wednesday, 437 blocos will hold close to 600 parades.
These free street parties are among Carnival’s most popular attractions along with the breathtaking Special Group samba school parades, the latter of which are restricted to those who pay the high cost of tickets to the city’s Sambadrome.