History of Florianopolis and Its Carnival

Discover why Florianopolis and its carnival became famous.

Florianopolis, the capital city of Santa Catarina State in southern Brazil may have a small population but has a great history behind it. Settlements by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Germans have had a great influence on the city’s culture.

A Potpourri of Cultures

After being ruled by the Spanish, the Portuguese took over Santa Caterina in 1675, establishing the city of Florianopolis as the capital. Around 1828 the Germans came as peasants hoping to set up their own land. However, their plans did not materialize, although they continued to live in isolation.

The Germans peacefully coexisted with the others until 1942 when Brazil declared war against Germany. German immigrants were forced to learn Portuguese, abandon their traditions, and adopt Brazilian customs.  Florianopolis has a strong German influence today. A number of Italian, Polish, Japanese, and Ukrainian immigrants have also established small family run farms throughout Santa Catarina. The food, the music, and cultures of all these immigrants have a great influence on the region even today.

Floripa’s Gay Friendly Carnival

Florianopolis or Floripa as it has been nicknamed is also a part of Brazil’s Carnival circuit with the local population putting up a great show. The gay friendly city is a paradise for members of alternative society. The Floripa Gay Carnival which is held on Saturday forms a special part of the Carnival in Florianopolis, second only to Rio. Over 50,000 gays take part in the Carnival which features a beauty contest for drag queens and transgender people, known as the Pop Gay competition.

Samba Parades and Street Parties

The Magic Island, as it is known by the locals, casts a spell on thousands of visitors who continue to flock to the Florianopolis Carnival for decades. Several events and parades are held all over the city during the Carnival. Live bands lead the celebrations in the city’s downtown area with wild parties hosted at almost every street corner where drinking, singing, and dancing rules all week long. Many samba groups have emerged over the years with a special samba competition held at the Sambadrome during the Carnival.

Competition at the Florianopolis Sambadrome

The Africans brought with them the samba, while moving from Bahia to other cities like Florianopolis, following the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888. Today, the samba forms the backbone of Carnival celebration with the city’s samba schools competing with each other at the Florianopolis Sambadrome.

The four biggest samba schools on the island parade for around 50 minutes each, vying for the championship prize. Most Floripa neighborhoods have their own samba school and host a number of blocos or street parades and parties with stalls selling beer and snacks lining the streets for the occasion. The electrifying atmosphere at the Sambadrome intensifies as the spectators sing and dance along with each parade.

What makes the Carnival in Florianopolis unique is that it mixes all the elements of the celebrations in a safe and friendly environment. In addition, the Gay Carnival is rivaled only by the celebrations in Rio. Among the popular samba schools in Florianopolis are Consulado, Copa Lord, and União da Ilha da Magia. You can catch them rehearsing for the parade at their headquarters on certain days of the week.

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