• February 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan   Mar »
  • Pages

  • Marginalia

  • Accumulations

  • Advertisements

ABCs of the Folia | Animal (Game) Backs Carnaval


BRAZIL — The carnivalesque world is a world of permeable social boundaries, and there may be no better example in the world than the permeability of Carnaval culture to populist politics,organized crime, and the works of Marshall McLuhan.

I have written quite a bit about the topic, including the 2007 scandal in which the king of Rio’s underground lotteries — aka «the animal game» — is said to have threatened jurors into voting up the carnival society he patronizes as the winner of the Globo-broadcast competitive parades of Rio.

It seems odd that the racketeering-influenced LIESA, or Independent League of Carnival Societies, should continue to live on the server GLOBO.COM.

That 2007 incident, in any event, is recalled recently in Corruption Unmasked by Sergio da Motta e Albuquerque (February 10, 2015).

In 2007, the Diário de Notícias of Portugal, published an article on the death threats communicated by the leading figure in the bingo rackets at the time, Anízio Abrahão David, to the parade judges, who were instructed to vote in the carnival society he patronizes, Beija-Flor (Hummingbird) of Nilópolis. The Hummingbird was victorious.

The tradition continues, according to da Motta:

Major figures from the Rio numbers rackets remain in place and running the Rio festival. The event brings income to the city, and as they say “if a team is winning, leave it alone.” [But] how many racketeers profit from organizing the competitive parades of Rio? How much do they make? Is there laundering of dirty money using public financing of the parades? These sorts of question, when from time to time they are brought to the attention of the public, are not carried through on. The media accuses, but the media also minimizes or covers up.

Sergio offers an incisive reading of the parallel markets in which Carnaval figures, and I will translate more excerpts below, or in a related post.

In the meantime, here is an interesting item that pops up when you google “carnaval” +”jogo do bicho”: a professionally sophisticated offshore-hosted site for the discerning bicho player.


Here comes the most awaited time of year for most Brazilians!  Street festivals, samba societies, or perhaps just a prolonged vacation, the countdown to Carnaval begins even before the New Year.

Here comes the most awaited time of year for most Brazilians!  Street festivals, samba societies, or perhaps just a prolonged vacation, the countdown to Carnaval begins even before the New Year.

But where does this festival, so vital to our culture, which has put Rio in the Guinness record book as holding the largest carnival celebration in the world, come from? And what do Carnaval and the Animal Game [jogo do bicho] — two of the most popular Brazilian cultural traditions — have in common?


The URL of this promotion and instructional Web site — how to play your numbers and their animals — lists an address in Gibraltar as home

Andrew Chapple of Lottoland (Gibraltar) Limited owns the domain.

Carnaval, the farewell to flesh


Though modern Brazil is the home of Carnaval, our country was not its cradle. The history of Carnaval goes back to Antiquity, to Mesopotamia as well as Greece and Rome, and was not appropriated by the Catholic Church until 590 A.D.

The term literally means “farewell to flesh ” — in Latin, carnis vale — and celebrates worldly pleasure during which persons can commit their excesses prior to the Easter season, a time of penitence and deprivation.

The days leading up to Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Easter, were marked by extravagant local festivals in places like Italy and France. The tradition of wearing costumes and parading, for example, dates back to these customs.

Carnaval arrived in Brazil with the Portuguese in the 17th Century. The original form of Carnaval was the entrudo, in which people threw flour, water and eggs at one another as a celebration of liberty.

That would be a nice name for a «dirty blog».

This is a well-written and -researched text. I wish I had the Portuguese and the carnival lore to write as well.

But let me skip ahead to the promotional rhetoric of the numbers racketeers: «Carnaval and illegal gambling go hand in glove.»

Jogo do Bicho, A Brother to Brazilian Carnaval


The ties between Carnaval and the numbers rackets began in the 1930s, thanks to the patronage of Natal de Portela. Before receiving this nickname, he was an employee of the Brazil Central Railroad named Natalino José do Nascimento, who lost an arm in an accident and had to retire on disability.

“Mister Natal” managed to get a job at a numbers bank and from then on his career prospered: from ticket-taker to manager to owner of his own bank, in very short order, he was the most important figure in the world of popular lotteries. From early on, Natal was involved with the world of samba, participating actively during his youth  in «samba circles» that would eventually form the carnival bloc “Come if you can make it” — later renamed as the present-day Portela.

We have an informal bloc in our neighborhood called “Come if you feel like it.”

With the death of his dear friend Paulo de Portela, as an homage, Natal decided to invest money in Portela so that it could transform itself into a major-league samba society, creating the figure of the bicheiro patrono — the bicho banker patron.

After Natal came various other bankers:  Castor de Andrade, patron of Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, is a very well known example. Another is Anísio of Beija-Flor, who has financed the parade since 1973, when the group hit the streets with the theme, “Dream like the King of the Lions.”

Natal de Portela created a tradition that remains strong down to the present day and helps to create the most beautiful and famous celebration in the world.

Since Carnaval and football are both characteristic Brazilian traditions, contributing so much to our national identity, it is no exaggeration to say that the numbers game, Carnaval and football are brothers of the same mother: the passionate heart of the Brazilian.