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Bahian Carnival before 1950 E-mail
Estimated to have generated a quarter billion dollars in 2007 [1], carnival in Salvador, Bahia is bigger than ever. Images of enormous road trains carrying music bands through the avenues and seaside boulevards of the city, with tens of thousands of people freely dancing around them have become trademarks by which the Carnaval da Bahia is recognized worldwide. Its single most important differential, much reiterated by the national and international media, is that of being a freewheeling street party capable of transforming all bystanders into dancers, a spectacle of 'popular participation', as it is often put.

For the most part of its history, however, the festivities of the Carnaval Baiano differed markedly from those of today, in particular in what regarded 'popular participation'. Until the late 1940s, the official parade, traditionally held in an area comprising Campo Grande, Avenida Sête and Praça Municipal (now Praça Thomé de Souza) was an affair organized by and directed at the upper classes, with their carnival clubs Fantoches da Euterpe, Cruz Vermelha/Cruzeiro da Vitória, Inocentes em Progresso [2] and their associated brass bands strutting down the boulevards between floats and a corso of imported cars, a showcase for the wealth and power of the local elites.

The poorer and afro-american communities -the demographic majority in the city- were confined to celebrate unofficially, dispersed over areas peripherical to the parade (Terreiro de Jesus, Baixa dos Sapateiros, Largo de São Miguel, Barroquinha, Saúde, Garcia etc.) and remote neighbourhoods (Liberdade, Cosme de Farias, Engenho Velho de Brotas,  the Itapajipe peninusula - Calcada, Roma, Ribeira etc. ), with no option to directly participate in the central event other than by watching or applauding. This rigid division began to crumble in the early 1950s, when the mechanical engineer Osmar Álvares Macêdo and the radiotechnician Adolfo Dodô Nascimento decided to invade the pompous downtown parade playing their selfmade electric instruments a top an open  Ford 1929.

  

NOTES

INFOCULTURA (2007) after MIGUEZ (2008).
At the time U$ 1,00  equalled R$1.80


[2]
The carnival associations Fantoches da Euterpe, Cruz Vermelha and Inocentes em Progresso were founded during the earliest days of Bahian carnival in the late 19th century, by members of the Bahian upper classes, with the Fantoches da EuterpeCruz Vermelha (='Red Cross') representing the 'highest' layer. During WWII, the Cruz Vermelha Club (the "Red Cross") had to change it's name to Cruzeiro da Vitória. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the advent of other large clubs, such as the "Democrata".