By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carnival is upon us, Samba is in the air and Rio revelers already occupy the streets over the weekends following the many blocos. In the industrial workshops of the Cidade do Samba, Samba schools are on the final stretch before the big Sambódromo show on Sapucaí starting Sunday, March the 6th.
G.R.E.S. Beija-Flor de Nilópolis will be the last of the Special Group to parade on Monday, March 7th. The Samba school was formed in 1948, and has as a symbol the hummingbird.
Beija-Flor, as the Samba school is more commonly known as, has its history divided in two distinct periods, with Joãozinho Trinta, and after. The ground breaking Carnival parade designer collected many awards, as well as fierce criticisms during his professional life.
Famous for his irreverence, controversy, and outstanding creativity, and also infamous for his phrase, “the poor like wealth, poverty is revered by intellectuals alone.” This statement was coined by him in response to heavy criticism for transforming Samba school parade into the very luxurious display it is today.
However Joãzinho was more than a daring Carnival designer while working for Beija-Flor, he created and managed many social projects geared towards inclusion in order to help the poor of Nilópolis. These were aimed particularly at the children and have evolved throughout the years to support many segments of Nilópolis’ community.
The Instituto Joãozinho Trinta manages his social projects now, as after two strokes he is bound on a wheel chair. Nevertheless João’s energy seems infinite and he continues to drive programs in Brasília, his adopted home of today.
His carnivals also could cause heated debate, in 1989 his theme Ratos e Urubus, deixem minha fantasia (Rats and Vultures, Leave my Costume Alone) sent ripples of shock through Rio’s Carnival community. There were beggars in the Comissão de Frente (front committee) followed by a statue of the Christ, which had been banned by an enraged Catholic Church at the time.
This year Beija-Flor honors Roberto Carlos, the very popular Brazilian Grammy award winner, singer and composer, also know as The King.
The theme Simplicidade de um Rei (A King’s Simplicity) will tell the history and achievements of the singer’s fifty year career, and will also bring a statue of Jesus Christ, this time with the Church’s blessing.
Beija-Flor after Joãozinho Trinta may not be exactly the same, however it heralds another well known Carnival figure, fire-fighter corporal and the most awarded Porta-bandeira in Rio’s Carnival ever, Selminha Sorriso (Little Selma Smile). This year she will be performing her choreography guided by Carlinhos de Jesus who promised an innovative integration of Comissão de Frente e Mestre-sala and Porta-Bandeira never seen before on the parade.
There is still time to catch the feijoada in the Caesar Park Hotel in Ipanema, more in information on Beija-flor’s website.