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By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of Rio’s most famous samba schools, Beija-Flor de Nilópolis, will close the first night of the Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition in the Sambódromo on Sunday, February 26th.

Samba school Beija-flor, Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Samba school Beija-flor de Nilópolis parading in Carnival 2016, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

The school has remained in the Grupo Especial competition for decades, winning the annual competition thirteen times and being named vice-champions a further twelve times.

Simply known as Beija-Flor, the samba school officially formed in 1948 and performs under a blue-and-white flag bearing a hummingbird symbol. This year, Beija-Flor’s enredo (theme or plot) tells the popular story of José de Alencar novel ‘Iracema’.

‘Iracema’, a tragic love story historically associated with the state of Ceará, tells the tale of indigenous India Iracema and European colonizer Martim Soares Morena. The couple fall in love, despite having sworn allegiance to separate sides of a war between the Tabajara and Pitiguara tribes, and India gives birth to a mixed-race son.

The school’s enredo, titled ‘A virgem dos labiós de mel – Iracema’ (The virgin with honey lips – Iracema) will begin with the birth of India Iracema. The audience will follow Iracema’s life, from falling in love to war between the tribes and eventually her death, caused by her longing for the forbidden love. In death, Iracema returns in the natural beauties of the earth, her story thereby representing the birth of Ceará.

Samba school Beija-flor, Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Beija-Flor will close the first night of the parades in the Sambódromo on Sunday, February 26th, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

One of the members of the school’s comissão de carnival (Carnival commissioners) Fran-Sérgio, told G1, “It is not a sad plot because Iracema reborn as the beauties of Ceará: the sea, the sunset, the beaches. More than being the legend of Ceará, it’s a beautiful love story.”

To convey the theme, Beija-Flor will adopt a rustic aesthetic for the theme, with costumes and props based in straw, weaving, feathers, craftwork and lace, but Fran-Sérgio said that the school’s parade will honor indigenous culture through more than just costume and plot. Speaking to local media, he said: “We will value indigenous cultures, not only using these elements, but also drawing attention to indigenous dance, art and culture.”

Adding, “With the history of Iracema, Beija-Flor closes the cycle of the origins of the Brazilian. We talked about Africa in 2015, the Portuguese and the court in 2016, and now let’s talk about the Indian.”

Beija-Flor finished in fifth place in last year’s Grupo Especial competition, having been crowned Carnival champions in 2015. Their performance is due to be the last happening on Sunday, February 26th, taking place at 3:25 AM. The remaining six schools competing for the Grupo Especial title will perform on the Monday of Carnival, February 27th.

Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the other competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.

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