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Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024

Brazilians have discovered that the true spirit of Carnival festivities has shifted from Rio to the lesser-known city of Belo Horizonte.
Often overlooked despite being Brazil's sixth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, or Beagá as affectionately called by locals, lacked the tourist-attracting features of picturesque beaches or colonial architecture.

It was only recently that the city began taking part in the widely celebrated Carnival season.

Quickly gaining popularity, Belo Horizonte's young Carnival is now a top draw, with an expected 5.5 million people to join the celebration from January 27 to February 18, 2024, with peak festivities from February 9 to 14.

Notably, international star Anitta is set to perform, marking Belo Horizonte as the new go-to Carnival destination.

The importance of Carnival to Brazil cannot be overstated—it is a time of intense celebration before Lent and a vital economic contributor, with 2023 earnings exceeding R$8.18 billion (about £1.3 billion).

While Rio has historically attracted most tourists and revenue, and Salvador, Recife, and São Paulo hold their own traditions, Belo Horizonte has emerged as the insider's choice.

As the planned capital of Minas Gerais, 127 years old, Belo Horizonte is recognized for its rich culinary heritage, bohemian culture, and relaxed atmosphere.

The city takes Carnival seriously, with street bands starting at 5 AM and continuing till evening. This year, it is expected to host more "blocos" than Rio and boost the local economy by R$1 billion (£160 million).

Marina Pisa, a local organizer, noted that Belo Horizonte is only recently gaining traction as a Carnival destination, having reignited its celebrations in 2009 after a hiatus from the 1980s due to financial and interest shortfalls.

Natalia Becattini, a local musician, describes this revival as a political act—a rebellion embracing a progressive mindset.

The city's Carnival also began as a protest, as exemplified by Truck do Desejo, a group created for the lesbian, bisexual, and trans communities.

They rose against the former mayor's ban on using a major square, resulting in a resistant and festive movement. The government's newfound involvement, with investments in infrastructure and a provocative campaign, has garnered mixed reactions.

Despite this, Belo Horizonte's Carnival appeal goes beyond marketing. Festa VHS host Gustavo Jreige favors it over São Paulo for its balance of organization without being overly regimented. He finds the city's Carnival retains an unspoiled charm, compared to São Paulo's which he feels has lost its essence.

Belo Horizonte's allure is also rooted in affordability and perceived safety, setting it apart from bigger cities like Rio and Salvador. It maintains a small-town atmosphere, friendly demeanor, and is considered one of Brazil's safer large cities.

Its cultural scene enhances its draw, hosting numerous festivals and becoming a hub for innovative brands. For Jreige, the city radiates warmth, promising an even more joyful experience during Carnival.

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