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Brazil Carnival

Revelers use Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival to highlight issues in Brazil


Glitz, glamour and gaiety normally characterize Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival.

But this year, many revelers took the opportunity to highlight major issues facing Brazil.

Brazil Rio Violence
Locals walk past soldiers during a surprise army operation in the City of God slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Police and military forces took part in a series of raids two days before Rio de Janeiro kicked off its world famous Carnival celebrations.

The days leading up to Carnival were marred by gun violence

An uptick in gunfights between rival gangs, and army and police operations intended to combat the spike in violence, has led to the deaths of several people, including children.

The increased gun violence has prompted police to shut down highways at least three times in the week leading up to Carnival.

Some street artists and residents of Rio de Janeiro's City of God decided to use graffiti as a symbol of hope and a plea for peace.

Sergio Leal, known as DJ T.R., is a hip hop artist from City of God, and said he wanted to use art to show that the shantytown is "not just a factory of criminals," and that peace is the first step in bringing more opportunities to the community.

Brazil Carnival Women
Women take part in the block party "Maria vem com as outras," or "Maria, join the other women," in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many women in Latin America's largest nation are doing exactly that during this year's Carnival celebrations, with block parties of all-female musicians, popular accessories with messages like "my breasts, my rules" and several campaigns to report and crackdown on harassment.

Women are pushing back against harassment at Carnival

Brazil has one of the world's highest rates of femicide, according to Mapa da Violencia.

But Carnival is notoriously the scene of sexual assault and harassment. Last year, reports of sexual assault at Carnival spiked 90 percent from the previous year, and military police in Rio received 2,154 reports of violence against women at the festivities.

This year, various feminist-themed block parties have cropped up, featuring all-female bands and fashion bearing messages of gender equality.

Debora Thome and Renata Rodrigues, co-organizers of a 2015 block party called "Mulheres Rodadas," or "Women Who Get Around," told the Associated Press that they announced plans for a women's block party protest as a joke. But over 1,000 women signed up for the event in less than 24 hours.

Beyond parties and protests, several campaigns were put in place to report and crackdown on harassment, including one called "Não é Não," or "No Means No."

Brazil Tourism Carnival
A grinding economic crisis in Latin America's largest nation and the rise of "blocos," as local street parties are known, are changing the nature of Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival.

Brazil is experiencing an economic crisis

Carnival is a major tourist attraction and source of revenue for Rio de Janeiro. Partygoers generally splurge on elaborate costumes and buy expensive tickets to watch samba school parades.

But free block parties, or "blocos," are becoming more popular among tourists than pricy parades.

Rio's tourism agency isn't worried. The organization expects 1.5 million visitors to the city for the Friday to Tuesday event, about half a million more than last year. And tourists are expected to take what they would have doled out on tickets, and instead spend it on food and drink.

City revenues during Carnival are estimated to be about the same as 2017, approximately one billion USD.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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