I guess most people associate Brazil with carnival. The one in Rio is probably the most famous worldwide, but did you know that not all carnival celebrations in Brazil are like the famous one in Rio?
In João Pessoa, carnival is a street party for free to which any reveler can join. The most popular parades are the Muriçocas do Miramar (Mosquitoes of Miramar), the Cafuçu* and the Virgens de Tambaú (Virgins of Tambaú).
Miramar and Tambaú are neighborhoods of João Pessoa, and respectively where these two parades kick off. The Cafuçu takes place downtown.
The Muriçocas party one week before Ash Wednesday, so-called Fire Wednesday by them. It drags millions of people towards the beaches, through the main avenue of the city.
Revelers wear costumes, some don't, others wear the official t-shirt of the Muriçocas, but they're all mixed together. People dance and enjoy themselves by the music of local artists. Since the parade takes place on a Wednesday, many people still have to go to work for the rest of the week and, if they show up hangover, they'll probably hear the joke „have you been bitten by THE mosquitoes?“
Cafuçu parades on Friday, two days after the Muriçocas. It's an event in the city! Revelers dress the worst way possible, some paint their teeth black to resemble gaps, some wear fake beer bellies, some women wear their hair in a roller set, some men grow ridiculous beards or goatees, the motto is „look as bad and ridiculous as possible“ and it works.
João Pessoa's downtown is covered with badly dressed people having fun. The photos on the next day are a delight.
The „Virgins of Tambaú“ celebrate their carnival on Sunday. Here men dress up as women and women dress up as men, but they do not really have to try hard to resemble the other gender, the funnier you look, the better. So, if a man has got very hairy legs, he'll go for a mini skirt. The costumes here look like the ones from Cafuçu, only the genders are switched over.
There are many other parades taking place, these are only three of the biggest ones. The most important point about the carnival in João Pessoa is that the people are the focus, not big decorated theme wagons like in Rio and Mardi Gras. There are no bleachers for spectators, the revelers are the spectators, it's a down-to-earth party, where rich and poor mix together as they please, it's pure carnival.
*cafuçu = the closest translation for this word would be „white trash“, but cafuçus lack the rudeness, it's all about the looks.