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Show goes on for criticized Rio Carnival float

Image: Carnival of Rio de Janeiro at the Sambodromo
Dancers perform as they protest against the banning of a depicting the during the parade of Unidos da Viradouro samba school at the Sambadrome.Ricardo Moraes / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Brazilian carnival group banned from parading with a dancing Hitler and mannequins representing Holocaust victims danced the samba through the streets Monday with men and women in white gowns wearing gags.

“You don’t build the future by burying the past,” read a banner on the float that the Viradouro group was forced to alter after a judge sided with a Jewish organization and ordered it not to use the float designed to remind people of past horrors to prevent them from happening again.

Viradouro’s new float was designed as a statement in favor of freedom of expression. Its other floats kept with the group’s main theme, “It Gives You Goosebumps,” with hundreds samba dancers wearing electric chairs, dressed as cockroaches and skiing down a 130-foot ice-coated slope.

Sergio Widder, Latin America representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the Jewish human rights group never wanted to censor the parade but wanted to protest “the banalization and trivialization of the Holocaust.”

Frenzy of parading
“No one wants or should bury the past,” he said. “In fact, if there is one thing that the Jewish community is renowned for, it is its refusal to bury the past.”

The frenzy of parading that started Sunday night and didn’t end until dawn Monday also included a nearly nude Brazilian woman who hopes to set a record for plastic surgeries dancing before thundering drummers in a tribute to the first wave of Japanese immigration to Brazil 100 years ago.

The 36-year-old star of the Porto da Pedra samba group, Angela Bismarchi — who had her eyelids surgically altered to look Asian — danced with thousands of people decked out as geishas, sushi chefs and samurai. In the shadow of a golden pagoda float, rotating Hello Kitty dolls opened to expose fur-lined shells with scantily clad women inside.

Bismarchi, wearing little more than silver body paint and black feathered wings, underwent her 42nd cosmetic surgery last week, as she closes in on the Guinness World Record of 47 procedures, held by an American.

Bismarchi had to samba for a full 80 minutes down the parading lane of Rio’s “Sambadrome,” an 85,000-seat venue built for the annual samba “school” competition that’s taken as seriously as soccer in Latin America’s largest nation.

Viviane Castro, drum queen for another samba school, set a record by dancing with a 1.6-inch “sex cover” — the smallest ever used in a samba parade. The “sex cover” is a G-string affixed by glue instead of a string.

'Better than the Super Bowl'
“It’s better than the Super Bowl,” said 33-year-old Elsa Yu of Toronto as she waved a flag from the stands. “The Super Bowl belongs to America. Carnival belongs to the world.”

The second day of the parade opened later Monday, with six group slated to perform through early Tuesday and a panel of judges deciding this year’s champion.

Dancers dressed as slaves pushed along a huge float representing the ship that brought the Portuguese royal family to Brazil two centuries ago. Hundreds of drummers in golden conquistador outfits propelled the 4,500-member group from Mocidade de Independente, as fans cheered and waved flags with the group’s green-and-white colors.

“It’s a pure thrill, there’s nothing like it,” the group’s drum queen Thatiana Patgung said before parading in a bikini fashioned from gilded sequins.

All across Rio, spontaneous samba “bloco” parties took over neighborhoods rich and poor for the third straight day, blocking traffic as thousands danced in the streets in bathing suits and costumes.

“It’s the most fun you can have without getting arrested,” said 17-year-old Paulo Sergio Viera, as he sprayed shaving cream over the heads of several friends dancing in the streets of Ipanema.