Black at the Carnaval

Brazil claims to be a ‘racial democracy’ where discrimination on race has been overcome. The concept was first introduced in the 1930s by the (white) sociologist Gilberto Freyre and has since become pervasive in official discourse. Yet when I photographed the Carnaval in Salvador de Bahia – the South American capital of the slave trade  – I was left unconvinced. In the VIP ‘camarote’ tent, the paying guests were almost exclusively white, while all of the security guards working ten hour shifts to keep the ecstatic guests safe were black.

This essay documents their work.


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