By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Officially known as Estação Primeira de Mangueira (First Station of Mangueira), it is one the most loved samba schools in Brazil, and while thinking of of it, poetry comes to mind. Despite a somewhat unusual color combination for a samba school, Mangueira has conquered hearts worldwide, and will be closing the first day of Carnival parading at the Sambodrome this year.
From the Central do Brasil train station, Mangueira (Mango tree) is the first stop, as well as the first stop for samba. With many illustrious musicians and its characteristically unique surdo (bass drum) beat, Mangueira has eighty years of samba tradition and eighteen samba school first titles, among those, the champion of the champions Super Cup, exclusively offered in 1984 (the inauguration of Sambódromo).
It is not possible to talk about Mangueira without mentioning its most celebrated poet, great master of Brazilian popular music, and one of its founders. Cartola (Top-hat), was born Angenor de Oliveira, a bricklayer who got his nickname because he used to wear a bowler hat to protect himself from the hazards of his trade.
It was Cartola who suggested green and pink as school’s colors, taking after the Carnival ranch – a very early type of Carnival troupe – his sisters used to parade in Three Magi Kings day.
This year Mangueira bows to another of its great song writers, Cartola’s friend and bohemian companion, Nelson Cavaquinho, who will turn 100 years-old on February, 17th and providing the school’s theme for 2011. Both Cartola and Cavaquinho, two men with barely any schooling, crafted sophisticated poetry that made samba history.
For many years Mangueira refused to be as luxurious as its counterparts, who were often financed by illegal betting barons well into the early nineties. It was a samba school of the community, well dressed but not wealthy, with plenty of samba no pé (danced samba), charm and determination.
Although Mangueira would not be manipulated, their traditions shaped a lot of the Carioca samba culture of today. In 1995, the school changed direction and formed ZMM a well organized business venture responsible for all school’s finances and funding, which resulted in the school coming in line with general samba school parade costs, and lavish performances.
Somehow without the heavy financing, Mangueira still casts a certain spell on whomever goes there in search of samba. Perhaps it reminiscences of a romantic Carnival from the 1930s, with the poetry of its songwriters enchanting its walls.
Mangueira magic is 20 minutes away from Zona Sul (South zone), for around a R$25 cab ride, entrance fees range from R$10 – R$20. More details of their upcoming events can be found on the Agenda at their website, mangueira.com.br.