Rio Carnival conquers Zika fears with repellant and samba

February 8, 2016 8:54 am
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Revelers of Uniao da Ilha samba school perform during the first night of the carnival parade at Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 7, 2016/AFP
Revelers of Uniao da Ilha samba school perform during the first night of the carnival parade at Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 7, 2016/AFP

, RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Feb 8 – With crazy costumes, pulsating music – and a dab of mosquito repellent – the Rio Carnival’s top performers swatted aside Zika worries Sunday to get down for the world’s biggest party.

Some 70,000 fans cheered, sang and shook their hips in the stands of Rio’s purpose-built dancing stadium, the Sambadrome, as competing ensembles, or samba schools, passed in a blur of feathers, glitter, flesh and extraordinary floats depicting everything from castles to gods.

The samba dance-off between the 12 best schools out of around 100 in Brazil’s most iconic city was the culmination of a Carnival season drawing an estimated five million partygoers over several weeks.

Parades, with each school featuring thousands of dancers, drummers and singers, were to run all night, then again through a second, final night Monday.

And nothing – certainly not the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus blamed for causing a rash of birth defects in Brazil – was getting in the way.

“We’ve all got repellent on,” said Yasmin Victoria, 27, who was with the Uniao da Ilha samba school. “But I don’t think any kind of fear would be enough to stop Carnival.”

“Despite the problems in our country, our people can’t lose their love of partying. And whatever happens in our country, it’s still the country of samba,” added her cousin Luanny Victoria, 19, who was about to dance in a skimpy golden outfit with vast green feather wings.

“People have to put those problems aside, at least for the three days of Carnival.”

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