The prominence of The Queen Mary has been felt in the city of Long Beach, California ever since the grand ship made the city its permanent home in 1967. But it wasn't until Gilberto and Patricia Leao, husband and wife team, made the ship home to their Brazilian Nites annual production of Brazilian Carnaval that the ship became the central hub to emit the culture of Brazil onto the city.
This year's Carnaval took place on Saturday, February 24, 2007, and was appropriately themed 'Carnaval da Paz' meaning Carnaval of Peace 'Peace in the world; Samba not War.'
My assistant, Shirley Duclos, and I arrived 15 minutes before the 8:00 p.m. start time to find the parking lot lined with cars and people. Making our way to the venue, the energy of the music could be felt outside. The chill of the night didn't stop attendees from bringing out their children or parading in body conscious costumes.
Once inside, the intensity of Brazilian pride was felt on the three dedicated floors of The Queen's vault area. Yellow and Green flooded each of the floors in the elements of clothing, flags, balloons and beads. Intertwined in the mix of color were doves to symbolize peace.
The culture of Brazil can be defined as a mixture of Portuguese, African and Native American (Indian) lineage making the country and its inhabitants intermingled to a degree that is unseen elsewhere in the world. A portion of this intermingling was displayed through the sea of skin tones that packed Saturday's carnaval and projected images of the Rio de Janiero hosted event via TV Globo (Brazil's main television channel).
From the darkest of chocolate to the lightest of vanilla, the people of Brazil are absolutely beautiful. And when I speak of beauty, I am not limiting my description to just physical features. The spirit of the people, the music and the food are all components that contribute to the fascination of Brazilians as a whole.
Many non-Brazilians took delight in the festivities of the night as well. An attendee I spoke to by the name of Mac drove from Oregon to attend the event. After receiving an invite from Master of Ceremonies, Ayana Bahiana, he stated, 'I just had to come and experience this for myself' I love it and am having a great time.'
Bahiana led the rambunctious crowd on the ground floor of The Queen through energy-charged introductions of the year's performances. Samba bands Sambajah and SambaDe made dancing infectious with echoing beats and soulful vocals. Another infectious element of the night was Daniela Kelly and the Oya Brazil Samba Show.
Kelly and her entourage of dancers adorned in nothing more than feathers, beads and platforms demonstrated dances that celebrate the rain forests, indigenous people, Bahia, Africa, Syncretic Religion, Capoeira, Rio de Janeiro and especially Carnaval.
After the women shimmied off the stage, athletic men jumped on to demonstrate Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. Africans living in Brazil during the period of enslavement originally practiced Capoeira. Because slave owners banned the martial art, the movements were set to music and disguised to look like a dance or acrobatic game.
During the night, we met a group of precarious young boys visiting from SÃ£o Paulo. As they danced their faces were filled with joy. 'This night reminds me of being at home in Brazil' stated one of the fresh-faced youths in broken English.
After hours of dancing and watching the acts on the ground floor, we decided to venture to the top two floors that housed the vendor, food and beverage stands. Aromas of seared beef and chicken were compliments of a Taste of Brazil and Silvio's Brazilian Bar-BQ.
Despite the attractions of the tender meats and mounds of side salsas we decided to forgo that line for the line that led up to the infamous Brazilian drink Caipirinha! Crisp and refreshing with a hint of lime, this drink was just what was needed to cool the body from dancing Samba. Sipping on Caipirinha's, we made our way around the vendor tables stopping at Brasil Mania (www.brasilmania.com) so that I could try on a jacket.
With the night hastily approaching into dawn, we made on last venture to the ground floor before our aching feet gave out on us. The crowd was still vibrant as ever with an endless supply of energy for song and dance. It must have been the Caipirinha's that kept them going!
I guess I'll have to invest in a few Samba lessons in order to keep up for next year's festivities I thought as we headed out into the moist early morning air. Adeus! (Goodbye!)
Brazilian Nites Productions has teamed up with the Brazilian Women's Group, headed by its president, Marcia Argolo. This group is dedicated to raise funds for important social causes in Brazil, such as the needy children, the elderly and battered women. Part of the proceeds of all our events benefits this organization. For more information please log onto www.BrazilianNites.com
Additional Photos from the night!