Edited by Jennifer Parker
“Carnaval” in Brazil is the most important popular festival in the country and can be considered a national ritual. It is a state of mind.
It is usually 4 days of sensual exaltation and the apparent modification of normal rules of behavior; which are natural and spontaneous. It is summer, it is hot, the beaches are packed and people are excited to begin a long week of party and fun. The celebrations are highly intense in largest urban centers like Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Olinda, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Brasilia. Carnaval is held on streets, social clubs, soccer clubs, community halls and restaurants.
Here in California, for decades now, the famous Brazilian Carnaval has traditionally held its own Carnaval Celebrations in Los Angeles and San Francisco (and continued to spread to other Californian cities). In Southern California in the 60’s and 70’s, Mercedes Foster and the ABC Club organized parties in hotel ballrooms, like the Hilton in downtown Los Angeles. Maria Lucien and Mario Macineli started the Carnaval at the Hollywood Palladium.
Patricia Leão started in clubs and restaurants and later at the Hollywood Palladium with the retirement of Maria Lucien. The UCLA International Student Center also promoted several dances on the building at Hilgard and even a parade right on campus in the 80’s with Embrasamba – the Los Angeles first Samba School. Luisinho, a former professional soccer player living in L.A founded the M.I.L.A – Mocidade Independent of Los Angeles, and later the traditional “Sambão” on Friday Nights at Café Danza. David and Doris Hillster founded Sambalá Samba School in Long Beach and started their Annual Carnaval Parade with special guests from Brazil and fantastic local artists, and fast became a festival with live music performance, Brazilian crafts & food. Steve Spencer, an Afro-American with Brazilian heart, together with the Brazilian Cristina Portela founded the Annual Brazilian Carnaval in San Diego.
Most recently, Patricia Leão moved her Annual Brazilian Carnaval to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, while Ariel del Mundo started his Annual Brazilian Carnaval celebration in the heart of Hollywood, and Lindenberg Junior founded the Annual Santa Barbara Brazilian Carnaval Fest in 2004. In the Bay area we can mention the legendary Aracy da Cruz that have started all the Brazilian moves in the 80’s, Roberto Lima who founded the San Francisco Brazilian Carnaval in 1990 and Celia Malheiros as a valuable contributors for the Brazilian Carnaval flag in the land of the Golden Gate bridge.
Great local musicians have made Brazilian Carnaval in California very special, such as Lula Almeida, Ana Gazolla & Sonia Santos, Katia Moraes, Luisinho do Samba, Pablito, Mestre Badaró, Mestre Cabral, Carlos Oliveira, Claudia Amaral, Lisa Silva, Rosana Brito, Neusa Brown and Eunice Taylor entre outros. Also pioneers dancers like Cristiane Kalil and Mariza in Los Angeles as well Maria Souza in San Francisco. All of the people mentioned here, and many others not mentioned, have brought us a piece of Brazil and their culture to the West Coast. Thanks to them and also the new musicians and dancers of the new generation, we can feel the emotion and “sabor” of Brazilian Carnaval every year in February/ March.