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King Momo and the Car(nival) Wash


Viva o Zé Pereira,
Que a ninguém faz mal,
Viva a pagodeira,
Nos dias de Carnaval

As the annual revels get underway, the mighty Rooster of the Dawn, like most carnival societies, is not shy about lampooning its betters.

Bakhtin, after all, was right about the Carnivalesque and the four modalities of the WUD, or “world upside down.”

But not everyone is convinced. One the key figures in the Car Wash case is attempting — apparently successfully — to quash distribution of a mask depicting his face, exposing him to ridicule on national TV.

Source:  Folha de S. Paulo

Scarcely had the sun risen on the Saturday of Zé Pereira and the revelers were already donning their costumes, getting ready for the parade of Galo de Madrugada — the Rooster of the Dawn — which this year is trying to recover its status as the largest Carnaval bloc in the world.

According to a perfunctory Wikipedia item, the Zé Pereira format dates back to at least 1869 and is also practiced in parts of Portugal down to the present day.

In Brazil, it thrives in the Northeastern capital of Recife, Pernambuco and sometimes revolves around a thematic related to  death and the dead, similar to the Day of the Dead.

The traditional Carnaval route in the outlying colonial city of Olinda ends with the arduous ascent of the ladeira da misericórdia —  the hillside of forgiveness — at which point Ash Wednesday is dawning.

The musical accompaniment are the hectic beats of  frevo, different from the samba of Rio de Janeiro.

Among the local traditions are the gigantones — giant dolls operated from inside — and cabeçudos — revelers wearing large papier-mache heads of real and mythical figures, as well as antefaces — simple paper face masks. Wikipedia refers to a study of the morphology of the Pernambuco follies in comparison with other forms of celebration.

V for Venality


«Propinobras» (Bribe-o Bras) with a Dilma double under the banner of the Rooster of the Dawn

Returning to the Folha coverage of the folia:

Among the first wave of revellers are characters from the Petrobras corruption scandal, such as the black-market currency trader Alberto Youssef.

“We have to wash our money because dirty money is bad for your health. So let us wash the money!” said the character Alberto Pau de Selfie — Alberto Selfie-Face — played by Recife professor Ivo de Andrade Lima.

Also to be found among the revelers is the angry shareholder Marta Pessoa [Martha Somebody], dressed in the distinctive orange overalls of Petrobras. She carries a placque reading “And at Petrobras, the disgrace continues.”

“Can you think of a bigger scandal than this? It is the biggest scandal in the world, it will wind up in the record books,” the local woman said.

Also marching near the front of the bloc was former president Lula, with a handcuff on his wrist and wearing a Petrobras hard hat. “I don’t know anything, I didn’t see anything,” says the Lula look-alike from Natal, Paulo Rogério, who has marched in the guise of Lula every year for the past decade.

Another Lula appears, holding a black briefcase with a photo of former Pernambuco state governor Eduardo Campos, and the motto, “How we miss you, Eduardo”.

Other marchers included the Propino [“bribe-o”] Brás bloc, made up of 45 friends who have participated together every year since 1984. This year, they are all dressed as gas station attendants with pumps in hand. “Petrobras was our pride, and now that pride is bruised,” said Luís Fernando Miranda, an organizer of the group.

«Corruption Unmasked»

Source: Observatório da Imprensa | Sergio da Motta e Albuquerque

The Brazilian edition of El País reported recently that the economist and ex-director of Petrobras Nestor Cerveró will sue anyone fabricating masks of his face in order to sell them during this year’s Carnaval.

His lawyers have already intimidated the artist Olga Valles of Condal, a company that makes between(unless 200,000 and 250,00 masks per year in São Gonçalo, a city bordering on Niterói (RJ). These can be fabricated and distributed for free, but the company is too small to attend this level of demand, says Albert, son of Dona Olga.

Citing popular demand for masks of the bureaucrat, one of his lawyers, Edson Ribeiro, said the mask “libels” his client and that he is going after anyone who distributes the mask.


Época magazine (1/23) had already produced a cover with the face of the former Petrobras executive which readers can cut out and wear during the reign of King Momo. It is no longer available on the newsstands, but can be downloaded from the Web site, at this link [PDF] […]

Similar initiatives are emerging on Facebook, the Spanish daily said.

I went to verify this and arrived at a simple conclusion: either Cerveró’s lawyers really are insistent on combating the Carnaval masks or El Pais is less than precise: of the five events cited by El Pais, I found only one Facebook group, with nine members, that had posted a mask of the former Petrobras official.

When I checked, there were 10 likers.

To be honest, the cast of characters of this Menippean satire — the Petrobras scandal — is so numerous, complex, and nebulous that it does not lend itself readily to carnivalesque exaggeration.