By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While the Grupo Especial (Special Group) of the samba schools tends to be the center of the attention at the Carnival parade competition, the Grupo de Acesso (Access Group) also has their chance to perform at the Marquês da Sapucaí, or Sambódromo each year.
The Access Group is the category ranked just below the Special Group, and is divided into several levels, all of which are competing against one another with the ultimate goal being to make it into the exclusive Special Group. Série A is the best of the Access Group, followed by Group B, Group C and Group D.
This year, seventeen groups will make up Série A of the Access Group. The winner and the runner-up of Série A will be promoted into the Special Group for next year. On the first official day of Carnival, Saturday, March 1st, spectators will revel in the performances of nine schools from the Access Group, who each hold great potential to get moved up next year.
9PM: Tradição – With the enredo (theme) “Sonhar com Rei dá Leão!” this samba school, coming from the neighborhood of Campinho (between Madureira and the Jacarepaguá region in the Zona Oeste or West Zone of Rio), will kick off the parade on Saturday. Competitors should watch out, as Tradição has already been the champion of the second division three times: in 1991, 1993 and 1997.
10:05 PM: Alegria da Zona Sul – This school, from Copacabana, will be the second to perform on Saturday, hoping to mesmerize the audience with the enredo “Sacopenapã”, about the history and culture of Copacabana.
11:10 PM: União do Parque Curicica – While this newer school, founded in 1993, does not have any real championships under its belt just yet, it aims to turn that around this year with the enredo “Na Garrafa, no Barril, Salve a Cachaça, Patrimônio Cultural do Brasil”, a theme which will exalt the Brazilian rum, cachaça. União do Parque Curicica comes from Jacarepaguá in the Zona Oeste (West Zone).
12:15 AM: Caprichosos de Pilares – In 2012, this determined school, originating from Pilares in the Zona Norte (North Zone), paraded in Grupo de Acesso B (Access Group B), winning the championship and returning to Grupo de Acesso A (Access Group A). This year, its theme is the neighborhood of Lapa, with the enredo “Dos Malandros e Das Madames: Lapa, a estrela da noite Carioca”.
1:20 AM: Unidos do Viradouro – After winning eighteen titles in the Niterói Carnival, Unidos de Viradouro decided to parade in the Rio Carnival, starting in 1986. This year, the enredo of this Niterói school is “Sou a terra de Ismael, ‘Guanabaran’ eu vou cruzar … pra você tiro o chapéu, Rio eu vim te abraçar”, which will recount a bit of the history of Niterói, starting with people who influenced the city, such as Oscar Niemeyer and José Datrino.
2:25 AM: Estácio de Sá – Hailing from Estácio in the Zona Norte (North Zone), Estácio de Sá spent much of the nineties in the Special Group, but in 1997, it was relegated to the Access Group and has been there ever since. For this year’s Carnival, Estácio de Sá will entrance the audience with the enredo “Um Rio à Beira-mar: ventos do Passado em Direcão ao future!” which will show the transformation of the city of Rio, from its discovery to present day.
3:30 AM: Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz – This year, the enredo of this school, from Santa Cruz in the Zona Oeste (West Zone), is “Do toque do Criador à cidade saudável do Brasil – Jundiaí, uma referência Nacional”, which will be a tribute to São Paulo.
4:35 AM: Unidos de Padre Miguel – This samba school, from the neighborhood of Padre Miguel in the Zona Oeste (West Zone) will hope to steal the championship this year with the theme “Decifra-me ou Te Devoro – Enigmas: Chaves da Vida”, which will delve into the mysteries of mankind.
5:40 AM: Acadêmicos do Cubango – Finally, to end the night, Acadêmicos do Cubango, born in the city of Niterói, will perform a “safari of joy,” as their website states, with their enredo “Continente Negro – Uma Epopéia Africana”. The performance will illustrate many aspects of the African culture, from captivity and slavery of the people to the continent’s diverse wildlife and nature