Bata Bola, Rio's Lesser-Known Parade

Dec 13, 2014
Near Skinners Bottom
Long past the main Rio Carnivale was a local event, but Hollywood and tourism seemed to have ended that. But there is still a "Carnivale" for the people, the Bate-Bola (Ball Hitters)
In Praise of Bate-Bola, Rio’s Seductive, Scary Alternative Carnival
In the stifling heat of the southern summer, crowds jostle along busy streets and public squares in working-class neighborhoods such as Guadalupe, Oswaldo Cruz, and Madureira. There’s a tangible buzz in the air, heightened by the static crackling from enormous sound systems and the giddy chatter of onlookers sipping ice-cold beers bought from street vendors lugging giant coolers.

Then there’s an explosion of sound and color. The speakers come to life with the bombastic sound of funk carioca and a precariously rigged arsenal of fireworks screeches into the air with showers of sparks and plumes of brightly colored smoke.

Metal warehouse doors fling open and everyone dashes to the safety of the sidewalk. The street is quickly taken over by a surge of shouting, swirling clowns, garishly dressed head to toe and topped with eerie masks and plume-like wigs. Delight and terror ensue as they crash down the street, brandishing flags and thrashing balls mounted on sticks against the ground. A few stumble and fall in the confusion. This is the saida, or “exit,” of the groups of bate-bola (“ball-hitters”), Brazil’s secret, seductive, alternative Carnival.