Rio Carnaval: “Blogs Debate the Banning of Boogying Hitler”

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Alegoría sobre el Holocausto en el Carnaval de Río. El Pais (Spain) reports: A float planned for Rio’s Carnaval, featuring Adolf Hitler boogying his ass off on atop a mountain of naked, smoking, emaciated corpses, is banned by judicial order.

My wife immediately sympathizes strongly with the arguments in favor of banning the float.

Los desfiles de Carnaval en el Sambódromo de Río de Janeiro vuelven a ser motivo de polémica. La famosa escuela Viradouro había preparado una carroza alegórica que representaba el drama del Holocausto judío, con decenas de cuerpos escuálidos y desnudos y la figura de Hitler bailando samba, que ha sido prohibido por orden judicial.

The Carnaval parades in Rio de Janeiro are generating controversy yet again. The famous Viradouro carnival society had prepared a float showing the drama of the Holocaust, with dozens of emaciated, naked corpses and a figure representing Hitler dancing samba, which has now been banned by judicial order.

La comunidad judía de Río, presidida por Sérgio Niskier, acudió a la justicia para que prohibiera la alegoría, alegando que el Holocausto fue un drama con seis millones de muertos que no puede mezclarse con los aires jocosos y de desenfreno de los carnavales.

The Jewish community of Rio, led by Sérgio Niskier, went to court to ban the float, arguing that the Holocaust was a drama involving six million deaths that cannot be combined with the joking, uninhibited atmosphere of Carnaval.

Niskier is president of the Israeli Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Whether FIERJ is coextensive with the Jewish community as a whole, I could not tell you.

La juez Julia Kalizhsztein aceptó la petición de la comunidad judía y la carroza alegórica ha tenido que ser destruida y no desfilará en el Carnaval. “Un acontecimiento de tal magnitud”, escribió la juez en la sentencia, “no debe ser utilizado como herramienta de culto al odio, a cualquier forma de racismo, además de la clara banalización de los bárbaros e injustificados acontecimientos practicados contra las minorías y liderados por la execrable figura de Hitler”.

Judge Kalizhsztein ruled in favor of the petition from the Jewish community and the float was ordered destroyed and will not appear in the parade. “An event of such magnitude,” she wrote in her ruling, “cannot be used as the tool of a culture of hate, or any form of racism, no to mention the obvious banalization of the barbarous and unjustifiable acts practice against minorities and led by the execrable figure of Hitler.”

Typically, El País focuses on the (irrelevant) blogging angle to the story. See also

Polémica en Internet

Controversy on the Internets

En Internet, la polémica se ha convertido en la noticia de los carnavales de este año, con miles de intervenciones en foros y blogs a favor y en contra de la decisión de la juez.

On the Internet, the controversy has become the news item of the year, with thousands of comments in forums and on blogs both for and against the judge’s decision.

This is the first I have heard of it myself.

Paulo Barros, de la escuela de samba Viradouro, afirmó que la sentencia “es una clara manifestación de prejuicio. Para ellos el carnaval es sólo juerga y traseros al aire. Si se hubiese tratado de una ópera, una música o una pintura, lo hubiesen permitido”. María Augusta, creadora en una escuela de samba, también ha lamentado que la alegoría haya sido prohibida. “Me estremecen estos tipos de censura. Las escuelas de samba ya sirvieron para difundir temas muy importantes, como los héroes negros en los años 60. La libertad es fundamental en el arte”. Sin embargo, Osias Wurman, ex presidente de la Comunidad Israelí del Estado de Río (FIERJ), comentó ayer que “el Holocausto debe ser enseñado en las escuelas educativas, nunca en las de samba”.

Paulo Barros of Viradouro said the ruling was “a clear manifestation of prejudice. For these people, Carnaval is just going on a binge and shaking your booty. If this was an opera, or a musical composition or a painting, they would have permitted it.”

I tend to agree with the guy.

In the travel brochures, Rio de Janeiro is Fun City, South America.

In the muted newspaper headlines, Rio de Janeiro has death squads and the Comando Azul. And subterranean rumblings of “Vote Quimby or my friend here will blow your head off.” And the Baixada Fluminense Massacre, for example.

Severed. Human. Heads.

So Viradouro’s conceit here — a kind of subversive redefinition of the carnivalesque — seems to me like it might legitimately be construed as a way of pointing out the screaming irony of that fact.

Maria Augusta, [“a creator in a samba school”], also lamented the banning of the float. “This kind of censorship leaves me shaken. The carnival societies have been used to deal with a lot of serious subjects in the past, such as black heroes in the 1960s. Freedom is fundamental to art.” However, Osias Wurman, former president of [“the Israeli Community of the State of Rio de Janeiro”] FIERJ commented yesterday that “the Holocaust should be taught in educational schools, not samba schools.”

I find samba schools very educational, myself.

La polémica en el Carnaval de Río no es nueva. Desde el año 2003, una ley municipal prevé la clausura de las escuelas de sambas que “practiquen vilipendio o escarnio de los valores religiosos”. Ese año, la escuela de samba de Beija Flor, una de las más famosas y premiadas, desistió de hacer desfilar a un Jesucristo armado con ametralladora para evitar polémicas con la Iglesia católica.

Controversy is nothing new in Rio carnival. Since 2003, a city law provides for the shutting down of carnival societies who “vilify or mock religious values.”

City law also forbids granting a monopoly on broadcast rights to its Carnaval celebration.

And yet Globo has one. Go figure. See

That year, Beija-Flor, one of the most famous and frequently victorious carnival societies, gave up on parading with a figure of Christ armed with a machine gun in order to avoid a showdown with the Catholic church.

La de este año es la primera polémica en relación con la influyente comunidad judía. La prohibición de la carroza alegórica sobre el Holocausto fue también aplaudida ayer en ciertos círculos cristianos que mantienen abierto un diálogo ecuménico con el mundo judío.

This is the first year in which controversy has arisen involving the influential Jewish community. The banning of the allegorical float on the Holocaust was also applauded in certain Christian circles that maintain an open ecumenical dialogue with the Jewish world.

None of whose names, or the substance of their views, you need to know, apparently. Public opinion is some sort of vast, hazy tide or force of nature, not the product of specific persons, institutions, and interest groups.

Viradouro’s enredo (theme) this year is not unprecedented, in the sense of introducing a whiff of Ash Wednesday and the theological problem of evil — Leibniz, if you like, or Spinoza — into Fat Tuesday.

Memorably, Beija-Flor in 2003 concluded its parade with the funeral of a Northeastern child.

I thought that was really, really brilliantly and shockingly anti-gostosas rebolando.

Ash Wednesday, after all, follows Fat Tuesday, as sure as day follows night.

Traditionalists were outraged.

Carnaval is joy and fun! Never-ending joy and fun and seasons in the sun!

Looks starting to fade? Take a botox injection!

Oh, yeah?

From dust you came, and to dust you shall return, Schuman the Human.

Remember that.

And welcome to the human condition.

A trecho from Viradouro’s samba-enredo:

O show da bateria alucina
Traz numa corrente a emoção
É arte, é criação que me fascina
Faz vibrar meu coração

The drum corps puts on an amazing show, it is a current that brings [joyful] emotion, it is art, it is creativity that fascinates me, it makes my heart tremble [with joy].

Porém nem tudo são flores
Há dissabores, infelicidades
Vidas perdidas nesse mundo de maldade
Eu sou sincero, com esses seres eu me pelo
De vassoura ou de chinelo, chame alguém pra ajudar
Na tela, uma cena de terror
De arrepio e calafrio, você vai se assustar
Peguei o Ita no Norte, gostei, tive sorte e kizombei
Mesmo proibido, desfilei
Em versos e poesias, menestrel
Vou cumprindo o meu papel

But not everything is roses, there are terrible things, unhappy things, lives lost in this world of evil. I am being sincere, I fight to drive such things away, with a broom or with my sandal, call someone to help! There on the screen, a scene of terror, enough to give you a chill, you will be frightened. I caught the ITA up north, I liked it, I was lucky, I had kizombei. Even when it was forbidden, I paraded. With verses and poetry, because I am a ministrel, I fulfill my role.

“ITA no Norte” is an home to a Dorival Caymmi composition by that title, about catching the bus to the big city:

Peguei um Ita no norte
Pra vim pro Rio morar
Adeus meu pai, minha mãe
Adeus Belém do Pará
Ai, ai, ai, ai
Adeus Belém do Pará
Ai, ai, ai, ai
Adeus Belém do Pará

Vendi meus troços que eu tinha
O resto dei pra “aguardá”
Talvez, eu volte pro ano
Talvez eu fique por lá

More on the Viradouro enredo in a bit.


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