By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The currently number one ranked samba school, G.R.E.S. Beija-Flor de Nilópolis, will enter the Sambódromo, Monday, February 11th as the third school of the night to parade for the Grupo Especial (Special Group). Known for their elaborate and artistic presentations, the twelve-time Carnival Champions, are among the favorites for this year’s competition.
Founded over half a century ago on Christmas day in 1948, the school, like many others began as a bloco. Their name Beija-Flor, which translates to humming bird, was chosen because of a ranch by the same name located near where the school orginated in Rio’s suburb of Nilópolis.
Officially first parading in 1954, Beija-Flor did not achevie major recognition until the mid 1970s, when Joãosinho Trinta took on the postion of Carnavalesco (Carnival designer).
Trinta, born in the northern Brazilian state of Maranhão, had moved to Rio de Janeiro as a teenager. There, he later joined the corps de ballet of the Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) and learned about set and costume design.
With his artistic arrangements, he first served as Carnavalesco for G.R.E.S. Salgueiro, leading them to victory in both 1974 and 1975. In 1976 he joined Beija-Flor and there he began what many consider a new era for the school, helping them to win five championships in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1983.
Trinta was often criticized for making the processions too elaborate and lavish. “If I made an enredo [theme] out of poverty, no one would march,“ Trinta once said during an 1987 interview. “The poor like wealth, poverty is revered by intellectuals alone.”
In 1989, hower, Trinta and Beija-Flor reinvented themselves when they presented the now iconic enredo entitled, “Ratos e Urubus, larguem a minha fantasia”. Translated it means, “Rats and Vultures, let go of my fantasy, with the word “fantasia” also translating to “costume.”
In that year’s procession the Comissão de Frente (Front Commission) paraded while dressed in rags. Other members dressed as sanitation workers and danced along beside them. There was also a controversial float depicting the famous Christo Redentor statue as a bum.
“It was a stunningly original tribute by the poor to the poor, the likes of which had never been seen on the streets of Rio,” Joseph A. Page said of the enredo in his book “The Brazilians”.
In 1993, Trinta and Beija-Flor parted ways and for the rest of the decade, the school failed to see another victory. The school’s artistic drive and determination remained though.
After an adjustment period and changes to the school which included using five designers as a carnival committee instead of one Carnavalesco, Beija-Flor has returned to their former glory, winning six out of the last thirteen Carnival competitions.
Last year they they placed 4th in competition with a theme, honoring São Luis, the Capital of the state of Maranhão and birthplace of Joãosinho Trinta. This year Beija-Flor is hoping to regain the Championship with the enredo, “Faithful Friend, the horse from the beginnig to Mangalarga Marchador”.
A tribute to the Magalarga Marchador, a breed of horse native to Brazil that is known for its good disposition, the theme tells the story of horses, beginning with the roles they have played throughout history and ending with the Mangalarga Marchador’s story in the New World.
“I am Mangalarga Marchador! A winner, my limit is the sky! I came to shine with the Beija-Flor,” proclaims the chorus of this year’s Samba Enredo (Theme Song).
With only weeks remaining until the Sambódromo competition, Beija-Flor is hard at work putting the finishing touches on this year’s parade. They will practice every Thursday night until Carnival at their quadra in Nilópolis. Rehearsals begin around 10PM and entrance is R$5.
G.R.E.S. Beija-Flor de Nilópolis
10225 Rua Pracinha Wallace Paes Leme – Nilópolis
Phone: (21) 2791-2866