Nearly all of Rio’s samba schools are closely linked to working class communities. Their processions include elaborate floats accompanied by tireless drummers and costumed dancers who sing at the top of their lungs to impress a panel of judges. Tens of thousands of spectators pack the bleachers of the arena, known as the Sambadrome, while tens of millions watch on television.
Before the schools began competing in the 1930s, Carnival was celebrated in dance halls and haphazardly on the streets, Simas said. The parades entered the Sambadrome in the 1980s, and have become Rio’s quintessential Carnival display.
The immense labor required for each show was already stymied by restrictions on gatherings that Rio’s governor imposed in March. Even with those measures, Rio’s metropolitan region, home to 13 million people, so far has recorded more than 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Beneath the Sambadrome’s bleachers, the city created a homeless shelter for the vulnerable population…