With fighter jets, inflatable pools, Nigerian-Brazilian hip-hop artists, beach volleyball, politicized circus clowns, Daniela Mercury, and a Disney parade, the Brazilian capital celebrated its fiftieth birthday with a barrage of parades and concerts rivaling Carnival. Candangos (immigrants from the four corners of Brazil who came to build Brasília) and Brasilienses (successive generations born in the city) converged on the central axis of the Plano Piloto, bookended by the Eiffel-esque TV Tower and the bifurcated Brazilian Congress, to dance samba and forró, eat corn-on-the-cob and street meat, and, of course, drink gallons of Skol and Antárctica. A special free concert by electronica guru Moby served as a pre-show last weekend, but the official celebrations kicked off Tuesday night, with concerts by established and emerging pop, rock, hip-hop, and gospel acts (Tuesday, incidentally, was the not-widely-heralded Day of the Indian).
Wednesday, a nationally-recognized holiday honoring independence hero “Tiradentes” and the official date fifty years ago when Brasília opened for business, saw a bona fide Disney parade thunder down the Esplanade, the reverence for good ol’ Walter Elias Disney echoing that for the similarly visionary President Juscelino Kubitschek (affectionately known as “JK,” Jota-Ka), whose controversial dream of a modern and futuristic capital came true out of, literally, thin air. Crowds in Brazil’s trademarked rainbow of browns—from coal to cream—poured in and out of the mile-long party space, laughing, yelling, flirting, fighting, and mixing under a constantly morphing sky. Uniformed police ambled through the masses, eyeing bare midriffs while keeping order; vendors hawked beer and mangoes and prayer tickets, while Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” blared from the speakers at the central bus terminal anchoring the action. As dusk descended and the puppet shows and folkloric indigenous and Afro-Brazilian dance presentations turned into rock and samba and jazz and MPB concerts on various stages, families with curly-haired youngins headed home as teenie-boppers and hipsters in skin-tight everything flooded the area in anticipation of the headliners Daniela Mercury and Milton Nascimento, and a tsumani of lower-profile but popular bands who rocked BSB until 4AM. If nothing else, Brasília’s birthday bash is a testament to making something out of nothing, and to a youthful, energetic city poised for another fifty years of planned disorder and chaotic progress.