Sexy 'nuns' get back in habit for Rio Carnival
Nuns in hot pants, nuns in full habits and even nuns with bushy mustaches -- the motley band of costumed revellers gathered to celebrate the first day of Carnival, joining one of the growing number of roving street bands that take over Rio de Janeiro during the five-day party.
The "nuns" are all followers of the Carmelitas, a group started in 1991 by friends who gathered for soccer and drinks just outside a convent of Carmelite nuns. Jokes about the sisters escaping to join the party gave rise to the band, which parades twice: at the beginning of Carnival, when the nuns who supposedly escaped the convent join the fun, and on the last day, when they returned to their cloistered existence.
"We're keeping the tradition, remembering the first nuns who jumped the fence," said Eliete dos Santos, 25, who was out with five other costumed "sisters" as the partying began.
While the public face of Rio's Carnival is the famed two-day parade of samba groups, which can each spend more than €4m on extravagant costumes and floats, its heart lies in these roving groups of irreverently costumed party-goers who create a free, open-to-all street carnival. Their cavorting is likely to hit fever pitch this weekend.
A revival over the past 10 to 15 years has given the roughly century-old tradition of street bands a new swagger.
This year, 424 of them registered with the mayor's office. Countless others, some little more than a group of good friends with a band and some beers, don't even bother with the legalities.
About three weeks before Carnival's official kick-off, they start parading around town, tying up traffic and playing traditional tunes or their own, wacky theme songs composed to make fun of the year's news, politicians and celebrities.
There was also a carnival atmosphere on an entirely different continent, as Sydney saw the 34th annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Grooms with grooms and brides with brides were a regular sight as the campaign for gay marriage in Australia emerged as a main theme.