My experience with San Francisco Carnaval began as a spectator. My best friend paraded with an award-winning comparsa. In years to follow, we would go to Carnaval to watch the parade. I first learned of Fogo Na Roupa the year they were monarch butterflies. I was stunned into silence as I watched monarch butterflies in flight. I asked who they were. I declared that someday I would dance with them.
In the years that passed, I danced with other teachers. Due to my challenging pregnancy, I quit samba and didn’t resume that style of dance until my daughter was in preschool. I joined the group that had taken over the Malonga Casquelord space on Sunday afternoons, SambaFunk. I was with them for five years before I made the decision to move on. I wanted to be part of a comparsa that would embrace my child and where we would feel validated and seen. Fogo embraced us as a family. I was embraced as a woman and a mother. My daughter was embraced as a child.
Nearly five years have passed and we are still with Fogo. I danced with them during the pandemic, first on Zoom and then outdoors. I never did that with my previous group; I was only involved during Carnaval prep from January to May. I stayed with Fogo because they honor us. They have seen me through my multiple physical incarnations. In other groups, there is pressure to be a certain size/weight; sometimes people face body shaming and harassment. It’s refreshing to be accepted and celebrated as beautiful no matter where I am on my fitness journey. Like any teenager, my daughter has struggled with insecurity. Her dance journey has included struggles with confidence and technique. It’s powerful to have her be in a place where she feels she can soar.
I was drawn in by Fogo’s beauty and pageantry. What I really wanted was a family with whom to winter, rest and finally to soar. We found that home. Muito obrigada Fogo for all the gifts you have given us. I saw joy from across the street decades ago. Hopefully I can continue bringing that joy to someone else. I know I will continue to take flight.