King Momo” opened the Rio de Janeiro Carnival on Friday at a festive ceremony where he was presented with the keys to the city, which for five days will dance to the beat of the samba to celebrate Brazil’s most iconic festival.
“I declare officially open this wonderful, fantastic Carnival of Rio de Janeiro,” King Momo said, holding a giant golden key in his hands that had been granted him by Mayor Eduardo Paes.
The symbolic ceremony of handing over the keys to the city has been held since 1933.
King Momo, played for the third straight year by Milton Rodrigues Junior, kicked off this year’s festivities at city hall, where he was received by the mayor in a folkloric act.
With the festivities officially open and in the midst of music and dance, the king showed off his talent for doing the samba, as did the mayor and Carnival Queen Bianca Ferreira and her two princesses.
“It is a great responsibility to hold the keys to the city. It is the third consecutive year of my reign and it is a great pleasure to enjoy this city’s golden moment,” Rey Momo said, before inviting everyone to celebrate Carnival in peace and happiness.
For his part, Mayor Paes, wearing a typical festive garland, humorously congratulated himself on passing the city’s power to the sovereign, and invited one and all to take delight in the festivities with joy and respect.
King Momo, chosen in a popular contest, must always be a fat, smiley man, a good samba dancer, able to instil crowds with the Carnival spirit and spur them to non-stop partying and dancing.
In related news Brazil's health ministry is handing out 89 million free condoms during the celebrations. The number is 26 million more condoms than were given out last year.
Local news outlets are reporting the reason for this year's jump in condom distribution is the alarming spread of the AIDS virus amongst youth in Brazil, where an estimated 630,000 Brazilians are infected.
Brazil's health minister asked that Brazilians and the 575,000 foreign visitors expected to visit Rio de Janeiro make good use of the free condoms during Carnival, which has a reputation for an atmosphere of casual sex.