Seriously, Brazil

“Brazil knows how to party, but are they serious enough?”

In my second photo-essay for The Atlantic‘s city-specific edition, Scenes From Carnaval, the ‘Largest Street Fair on the Planet’, I go inside the colonial view that Carnaval is evidence Brazil is not serious enough:

Six million people have taken to the streets of Rio de Janeiro this week for a non-stop schedule of seven hundred parades, widely considered the biggest street party on the planet.

But as the city descends into Carnaval revelry just a few weeks after a nightclub fire left 238 people dead in Santa Maria, the national mood is decidedly more somber than celebratory.

The governor of the Federal District canceled a celebration marking 500 days until the World Cup “out of mourning,” The Atlantic reported. “The country has been beating back assertions that the fire indicates a systemic lack of preparedness on its part for the competition, which will be held there in 2014.”

News outlets pieced together evidence of an avoidable tragedy: There were no proper permits, there were no emergency exits, there were reports bouncers locked the doors to keep people from leaving without paying. Most victims died from a highly flammable sound insulation foam that filled the club with toxic smoke, not from the actual flames.

As all eyes turn to Rio for World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympics, the tragedy in Santa Maria is a chilling dramatization of the absolute worst that could happen when the tourists pour into town; Carnaval is the dress rehearsal; and every exploding manhole and collapsed building is evidence Brazil needs more time to practice. The question seems to be: Brazil knows how to party, but are they serious enough to host the first world?


Read on and check out Scenes From Carnaval, the ‘Largest Street Fair on the Planet’ in


The hangover in Ipanema Beach after the Banda de Ipanema parade.


More RioChromatic in the press:


  Rio’s Big Brother – in The Daily Beast

The biggest surveillance screen in Latin America spans 860 square feet in a new building called the Ops Center that most residents of Rio de Janeiro don’t even know exists. (link)



Sayonara Centaurus in Atlantic Cities

Luxury brothel smackdown in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympic City takes aim at a pricey brothel popular with tourists in its latest effort to clean up Rio’s image abroad. (link)