By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Founded in 1928, G.R.E.S. Estação Primeira de Mangueira, holds the distinction of the oldest samba school still in competition. Best known simply as Mangueira, they will parade fourth for the Grupo Especial (Special Group) at the Sambódromo on the first night of the competition, Sunday, March 2nd.
They have won the Carnival Championship an impressive eighteen times, and Mangueira is considered by many to be the most popular school. Their long history and well-executed parade performances earn them loyal supporters throughout Brazil and worldwide.
A leader in forward-thinking ideas for their desfiles (parade) performances, they were the first school to use alegorias (props), an enredo (theme) and the first to use a surdo drum in their bateria (drum section). The image of the surdo is featured as a symbol on the school’s pink and green flag. One of their victories also made them the first champion crowned in the Sambódromo.
This year’s theme translates to “the Brazilian festivities fall to Mangueira’s samba” which is a powerful statement referencing the confidence and strength of this samba school. The lyric of the samba, led by Director of Harmony Edson Goes, encompasses the Brazilian povo (general public) and their traditions and love of Carnival. This samba also denotes the joy and excitement during that time and proclaims that the unity and strength of Mangueira is a representative of Carnival.
The Complexo da Mangueira is a group of favelas in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), estimated to contain 20,000 people, and has a history tied closely with Carnival. “Estação Primeira”, the beginning of the school’s official name translates to “first station,” the name chosen because of the school’s founding on Rua Visconde de Niterói in Mangueira, in the area of the first railway stop after Central do Brasil (Central Station).
The 2011 documentary film, “O Samba Que Mora Em Mim” (The Samba Within Me) is a great window into the Mangueira samba school, and it’s really about the Mangueira neighborhood and its residents. The larger than life characters who love samba, and have therefore played a pivotal role in Mangueira’s standing as one of the top Samba schools in Rio.
The school also has a large number of celebrity followers, both from Brazil and worldwide. Famous names include Alcione Nazareth, one of Brazil’s most successful female sambistas, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and fashion icon Calvin Klein who attended a rehearsal this past month.
Mangueira is also known to have the most impressive quadra (rehearsal hall) where the samba theme comes to life just before the competition with the bateria section, parade dancers and the king and queen of the school who will lead the parade during the Carnival competition practicing.
Inside the hall there is beer and snacks for purchase. Ticket cost is R$40 and VIP entry can cost up to R$1,500. It is best to arrive by taxi which can cost up to R$25 from Copacabana, see their web site for more info.
G.R.E.S. Estação Primeira de Mangueira
Rua Visconde de Niterói, 1072 – Mangueira
Rehearsal: Saturdays at 10PM
Ticket Information: (21) 2567 4637