By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A devastating fire raged through the Cidade do Samba last Monday, February 7th, completely destroying three Barracões (Carnival industrial workshops) within the Carnival industrial complex in Gamboa, down-town Rio. A silver-lining is that G.R.E.S. Portela was running behind schedule on some of their work, which means less was destroyed, offering a better chance to recover.
Portela is one of the most traditional Samba schools in Rio, hailing from Madureira, and will now be parading on Carnival Sunday instead of the original allocated time on Monday, although the new specific parade schedule has not been released at the time of writing.
As its symbol, Portela has an eagle with wide spread wings, and with 21 winner titles under its belt it seems to fit well. The Samba school has been around in some shape or form since 1921, however winning prizes came only later in 1929.
As one of the oldest Samba schools in Rio, it is revered by Rio’s Samba community. With the tradition also comes innovation, and recently in 2005, the school introduced a wing for people with disabilities called Nós Podemos (We can).
Portela is also the school that seems to be the choice of the stars, on its floats paraded Ricky Martin in 1997, Naomi Campbell in 2005, Quincy Jones in 2006 and Thiago Soares, Royal Ballet Principal dancer in 2009.
This year Portela brings the theme Rio, Azul da Cor do Mar (Rio, Sea Blue) honoring seafarers, the history of sea travel and its importance in the development of civilization as we know it today.
The theme’s story includes great ancient navigators like the Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, and their myths, as well as the Europeans’ grand discoveries of the fourteenth century. They will also pay tribute to Rio’s port centenary this year.
Now Portela is picking up the pieces and recovering from the major set back on Monday. The fire also hit União da Ilha and Grande Rio Samba schools, the latter suffering a total loss of its props and costumes.
Nevertheless the schools will be at the Sambódromo on Carnival with the help of all the other Samba schools which came quickly in aid.
Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes promised some financial relief, and Liesa (the Independent Samba School League of Rio de Janeiro), which regulates Samba school parades, has decided the fire-stricken should not be judged in the parade and that there will be no Samba schools demotions at this year’s contest.
With all this upheaval, there is no better time than now to support Portela, the show can’t stop and rehearsals are continuing. For more information go to www.gresportela.com.br. Portela’s samba court is located at Rua Clara Nunes, 81 – Madureira – Rio de Janeiro – RJ CEP 21351-110, phone (21) 2489 6440.