Brazil’s strongest heatwave for 20 years failed to stop tens of thousands turning out for the Rio carnival’s top samba schools parades, but the event was mired in controversy over the use of a small child in what has been described as a sexually-charged role.
It has sparked a fierce debate in Brazil and abroad over the role of children in the annual hedonistic festival.
Traditionally the event in the Sambadrome stadium sees drum queens chosen for their looks and samba skills cavort in front of hundreds of drummers.
But this year’s drum queen was the youngest in living memory. Julia Lira is just seven and at one stage burst into tears in front of the bright lights and fireworks.
Madonna was among the celebrities attending this year’s parades, joining hundreds of thousands of international tourists, many escaping the cold of the northern hemisphere.
More than ever Rio is conscious of its image having been chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games. A child protection agency went to court to try to stop the organisers from using the seven-year-old in such a role. But the judge gave the green light, and many carnival goers say children have traditionally played a major role at the party.
Rio carnival hit by child drum queen row