Aluminum can street party in Brazil brings joy and an ecological message

Aluminum can street party in Brazil brings joy and an ecological message

MADRE DE DEUS, Brazil (AP) — They didn’t see her, but they heard her.

Carnival-goers on Sunday in the northeastern Brazilian city of Madre de Deus heard the aluminum can street party before they saw it: More than 30 participants dressed in elaborate costumes made from hundreds of beer and soda cans gathered They walked around the island in the Bay of Todos los Santos, in the state of Bahia.

Each suit—called “pierro”—is the result of hard work, made with some 1,600 cans collected during the previous months and washed thoroughly to eliminate lingering odors.

Hundreds of joyful spectators gathered despite the summer drizzle to watch this feast for the eyes and ears, cheering and applauding the much-loved “Bloco da Latinha”, as it is known in Portuguese.

“In addition to being pretty, it’s a lot of fun,” said Fábia do Carmo Carvalho, 19, who has been marching with the group for several years.

Founded in 1997, the street party was born out of concern for the sea of ​​cans that Carnival leaves in its wake, littering Madre de Deus. A group of friends and family began collecting discarded cans and gluing them to their clothes.

But a few years later, collecting recyclables became a regulated profession, whereby people can bring materials to recycling centers and receive a salary based on the weight and quantity of material collected.

Although Madre de Deus suddenly became much cleaner, the group had difficulty finding cans as a result. The street festival of the cans was suspended before returning in 2011, and the artists dressed up for the first time with the “pierros”.

“Nine people came out. It was rough, there were no masks. From there, we began to improve little by little. And thank God, here we are now,” said the group’s president, Aloísio Jesus da Silva, 62, the morning of the parade at his house.

The cans, grouped by color and type, are attached to overalls with a small nylon thread. This year, the performers wore a red mask that covered their faces with pointed black ears. Some women chose to parade with an alternative model, with only a skirt made of cans and shoes decorated with can rings.

The group got a big boost when they were invited by the Globo television network in 2015. The elaborate costumes take up too much space to transport them across the country to Globo’s studios in Rio de Janeiro, so the network helped them make new ones. for the program.

“Appearing on a national network was very important for the development of the group. It was a validation of what they do,” said Louyse Gerardo de Medeiros, a doctoral student in cultural studies at the Portuguese University of Minho, who wrote his master’s thesis on the group.

“The experience—in which they were very well received—contrasts with their daily lives, which are a struggle,” Medeiros said.

As the group’s popularity has increased, so has the need for aluminum cans to make extra costumes. The street party now pays people who make a living collecting recyclable material to sell them cans.

The suits cost about 220 reais ($44), a not inconsiderable amount in a country where the minimum monthly wage is $285.

“Every year it is very difficult,” lamented Ednailton Santos, 59, vice president of the group. They would like to be sponsored, “but no one listens to us.”

Despite the difficulties, Santos is proud to be a member of the street party and the message it conveys to the young and old residents of Madre de Deus.

Santos makes his living as a fisherman and spends many hours at sea off the coast of the state of Bahia. “I see people drinking and throwing cans into the sea. “I catch them and return them to the shore,” he explains.

“We show people that the can they threw away has a lot of prestige, because with it we make a costume that gives a lot of happiness,” Santos said.


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