Brazilians compete for kissing crown at Rio's Carnival
By Asher Levine
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Wagner de Aguiar is acting like a big baby, but the women do not seem to mind.
Standing about 6 feet (1.83 m) tall, dripping with sweat and wearing nothing but a diaper, flip-flops and an afro wig, he struggles to recount the number of women he kissed in the day.
"I lost track, but I think it's about eight or nine," he said, the clock ticking 2 p.m. A few minutes later, a passing woman playfully asks if she can change his diaper, and he is at it again.
This is a typical scene at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, where hordes of young Brazilians gather for raucous street-parties marked by free-flowing beer, loud samba music and the widely shared goal of kissing as many people as possible.
Contrary to a common stereotype, Brazil is a socially conservative nation, its culture rooted in Catholic tradition.
For example, skimpy bikinis are fine, but going topless at the beach is not done. Homosexuals often face prejudice.
Many view the five-day festival as the one chance to enjoy a bit of hedonism before the solemn period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
Some locals measure that freedom in kisses, competing with their friends to see who can smooch 10, 20, even 30 different people in a single outing. While men tend to be more open about it, interviews showed women were no different, just more discreet. Continued...