The various Carnival festivals around the globe have taken a life of their own, as mass tourism, globalization, a burgeoning global middle class, media and so on intersect in big business. The connection with the Catholic celebration (and Carnival as a secular festival is predominant in historically Catholic localities. Goa's carnival is well marketed.) is tenuous at best, apart from the date.
The Rio Carnival, one of the biggest, has been more violent than usual.
The series of recent crimes has been unusually brutal even by Brazilian standards. The police have found dozens of mutilated corpses in stolen cars -- the remains of people who had been tortured, most of them victims of the war between rival drug gangs. Heavily armed drug dealers drove at high speed through neighborhoods in northern Rio, speading terror. They shot at policemen and members of the so-called "militias" -- armed groups who claim to be acting in self-defense and which have driven the drug dealers away from many favelas.The violence is related to gangs and drugs. Carnival is big business for drug dealers.
Special police forces and drug dealers recently faced off in a firefight that lasted two nights in a favela complex in northern Rio. The access road to the airport and the Linha Amarela, one of the city's main traffic arteries, have to be closed almost every day due to shoot-outs.
But no crime has shaken the city as much as the death of little João Hélio Fernandes. His mother was assaulted when she stopped her car at a red light. She was hauled from the car, but wasn't able to open her six-year-old son's seat belt in time. The gangsters slammed the car door shut and sped away at full speed with the boy hanging outside the car like a doll.
The criminals dragged the child through the city for seven kilometers (3.4 miles), and kept going even though horrified onlookers alerted the driver to what was happening. By the time they stopped the car, the boy was already dead.
As we start Lent, another reminder of just how much we need help. Or, as the Christian tradition says, a Savior.