Brazil: the little hands of the carnival idle because of the coronavirus

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At the head of a sewing workshop that makes costumes for the samba schools of the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Renata Oliveira found herself distraught at the announcement of the postponement of the festivities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A blow for this 41-year-old Brazilian who makes a living from carnival, like thousands of other artists, artisans and many Cariocas, the inhabitants of Rio who make this great popular festival “the greatest spectacle on earth.”

The festivities only last a few days, but they give work to a multitude of people throughout the year.

“People think that carnival is just a party, but it’s much more than that: it’s a source of income for many families,” Renata told AFP, in front of an empty table on which his sewing machine is stopped.

“Everything I have built in my life is linked to carnival,” she says.

Normally, his studio in Sao Cristovao, a popular district in the north of Rio, very close to the sambodrome where the sumptuous carnival parades take place, would be filled with rolls of multicolored fabrics, with a swarm of couturiers, designers and decorators.

But silence has reigned there since March, when confinement in Rio de Janeiro began.

“I had to sell my machines”

Renata has not been able to pay the rent for the past few months or hire the forty or so people who usually work tirelessly in this workshop where lie, on the floor, a pile of feathers, masks or sequined fabrics, vestiges of the last carnival.

A few drawings of old costumes are still plastered on the wall, like old posters with chipped edges.

“Unfortunately, I had to sell sewing machines, cutting machines and a lot of other things. Just to survive, ”she laments.

Deprived of income for the past six months, she depends on the allowance paid by the government to informal workers and on donations of packed lunches.

“The owner of the premises knows me well, he is aware of my situation. But after a while, I’ll have to pay for it, ”she said.

Rio, the “Marvelous City”, a major tourist hub in Brazil, was hit hard by the pandemic from April to June.

The authorities have authorized the gradual resumption of economic activities, but from there to consider the carnival, nightmare of any epidemiologist with hundreds of thousands of people dancing side by side, there is a chasm.

The samba schools decided, at the end of September, to postpone the parades scheduled for February 2021 indefinitely, at least until the population can be vaccinated en masse.

Last week, Rio recorded an average of 39 deaths from COVID-19 and 885 infections per day.

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