Most people are surprised to discover that São Paulo has a Carnaval. Somehow the very notion seems at odds with the city’s hardcore urban image. Yet, just like Rio, the city has its own traditional neighborhood escolas de samba, who spend all year rehearsing for the day in which their members dress up, mount extravagant floats, and parade through their very own Oscar Niemeyer-designed Sambódromo (Av. Olavo Fontoura 1209, Parque Anhembi, Santana, tel. 11/6226-0400), located near the Tietê bus terminal.
The results (televised on national TV) are less showy and spectacular than Rio de Janeiro’s desfiles. However, it’s also much easier and somewhat cheaper to get tickets for the festivities. If you’re in the mood for samba, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Depending on how far away (high up in the stands) or close you are to the action—and how much pampering you demand—prices range from R$15 to R$1,000. You can purchase tickets at travel agents or Ticketmaster (tel. 11/6846-6000, www.ticketmaster.com.br).
Even if you miss Carnaval itself, you can sit in on rehearsals at the neighborhood escolas. Schools worth checking out include Vai Vai (Rua São Vicente 276, Bela Vista, tel. 11/3105-8725, www.vaivai.com.br), Rosa de Ouro (Av. Colonel Euclides Machado 1066, Freguesia do Ó, tel. 11/3931-4555, www.sociedaderosasdeouro.com.br), and Mocidade Alegre (Av. Casa Verde 3498, Limão, tel. 11/3857-7525, www.mocidadealegre.com.br).
For more information contact the União de Escolas de Samba Paulistanas (UESP) (Rua Rui Barbosa 588, Bela Vista, tel. 11/3171-3713, www.uesp.com.br).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition