Carnaval Brasiliero in Austin

Carnaval Brasiliero in Austin
Many cities in the United States hold Mardi Gras celebrations that can be traced back to French and Spanish colonial influences. However, Austin, Texas chose another path because it was founded after Texas won independence from Mexico and hence never experienced a significant Spanish influence. The Carnival of Austin is a relatively new celebration inspired by Brazilian Carnival. It was even named Carnaval Brasiliero.

In 1975, there was a group of Brazilian students at the University of Texas at Austin taking an intensive English course. Facing with the prospect of a February without traditional Carnival, they decided to organize a celebration of their own. The first Brazilian Carnival in Austin was held at Unitarian Church. It attracted about 200 revelers, mostly Brazilian students and their local friends.

The students eventually went back to Brazil but the Carnival became an annual affair. The next edition was held at a local bar and drew over 300 attendees. The celebration continued to grow in size and sophistication, eventually becoming one of Austin’s signature events. What started as a small party has become a giant celebration of Brazilian culture that draws thousands of attendees every year.

Austin’s Carnaval Brasiliero is one of the biggest Brazilian Carnival celebrations outside Brazil. It focuses on Brazilian music and dance, primarily samba. Austin even has its own samba school, Acadêmicos da Opera, composed of approximately 160 local dancers and drummers. Each year they adopt a theme inspired by literature, cinema, opera etc. and present a spectacular performance based on this theme.

Carnaval Brasiliero doesn’t have a traditional parade that marches through Downtown Austin. The event is more of a samba party held at Palmer Events Center. People from all over Texas come to Austin to listen to purely Brazilian music played on Brazilian instruments and sung entirely in Portuguese. Although most attendees cannot understand a single word and have no idea how to dance samba, they have a lot of fun.

Carnaval Brasiliero in Austin

Photo: Brian Stage




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