From what I can see (read: totally uninformed and over simplified) it's divided up into two parts: Blocos and Samba School Parades.
Blocos are big streeet parties where people dress up and go out in their neighborhoods. Sometimes they parade from point A to point B but not always. Lots of music, dancing, vendors, drinking, etc. (can't talk about the etc. on my blog-but from what we hear it can get a more than a little wild-especially after dark). Today there were two very close to our house so I sent Guapo out with my camera. It was raining out, but this deters the partiers not in the least:
The church in these parts locks up the missionaries for a week and they send the youth to a camp, far, far, far away from the streets of Big City.
Parades are made up of competing "Samba Schools"- groups of people that spend 11 1/2 months of the year (no kidding) preparing for their 80 minutes in the spotlight; this involves making thousands of intricate costumes, between 8 and 12 floats, writing music, and choreographing dance. Then, the best of the best compete in two big parades. Each school has between 3,000-4,500 people that parade down the mile-long "Avenida". You must buy tickets (ranging anywhere from $100- $3,000 USD each) to see the parade as the Avenida is completely closed off to the general public. Six schools are competing tonight and six are competing tomorrow night. The winner then parades on Saturday.
Guapo and I will be going to the parade tomorrow night. We will leave our house at 7:00 pm to make it to the Sambódromo by 9:00. The six schools will parade until 4:00 am, putting us home by 6:00 AM, just around the time when Pedro wakes up. We will be watching from a box (think sporting event) where we will have food and a bathroom (that's good news since I'm sure I'll have to employ my breast-pump at some point during the night).
Stone-Cold Sober Samba-ers
The exciting news of the week is that Guapo and I will not only be watching the parade, WE WILL ACTUALLY BE IN THE PARADE.
The Samba schools make a limited number of costumes available to non-school members for a heafty price; someone from Guapo's worked offered him two costumes and he took them as we've heard it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our school's name is "Vila Isabel"; their theme is Workers of Brazil and so our costumes include a huge headress that is topped by an oil rig spouting black feathers. Sexy, huh??? We will be dancing through the street among 900other spouting oil-rigged headed people. Our school starts parading around 2:00 am; that's 9:00 pm MST, so if anyone has access to it on cable TV, check us out!
(you can be sure I'm charging up my camera battery tonight, what could be more bloggable???)