Portela Samba School in Carnival 2014

G.R.E.S Portela is one of the oldest and most popular samba schools with a record 21 championships to their name.

By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A samba school full of rich tradition but no stranger to challenges, G.R.E.S Portela will be the second to last school to parade of the Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition on Monday, March 3, 2014. They will parade down the Sambódromo as the fifth performance of the night, looking to increase their record as the school with the most championships in Rio’s Carnival history.

G.R.E.S. Portela in Carnival 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

The famous G.R.E.S. Portela in Carnival 2013, photo by Patricia Santos/Riotur.

Founded as a Carnival bloco in 1926 in the Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) neighborhood of Oswaldo Cruz, they later moved to the nearby neighborhood of Madureira on Rua Portela, for which after going through many name changes, the school was ultimately established as G.R.E.S. (Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba) Portela.

A constant throughout Portela’s history is perhaps the most recognizable element of the school, their emblem; an eagle with its wings spread wide. It was originally designed by co-founders of the school Antônio Caetano and Paulo da Portela. Caetano is said to have chosen the eagle because it is “the bird that flies higher.”

The soaring eagle has lead Portela to 21 Carnival victories, more than any other school to date. Portela has also been home to famous samba composers including; Candeia, Aldir Blanc, João Nogueira and Paulinho da Viola. The school has also attracted famous celebrities including; Ricky Martin, Naomi Campbel and Quincy Jones, who have all appeared on the school’s floats during previous parades.

Portela Samba School in Carnival 2014, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

The soaring eagle float during Carnival 2013, photo by Tata Barreto/RioTur.

This year Portela will pay homage to Rio’s culture and its history between the two sides of the sea as the enredo (theme) is “Um Rio Mar a Mar,” or A Rio with Two Seas. Referring mainly to the ocean that first brought people to this city and the other body of water, a reference to Avenida Rio Branco, the main street in Rio’s Centro near City Hall which will symbolize the sorrows, dreams, struggles and devotion of the people of Rio.

No stranger to setbacks, in February 2013, the school experienced a tragic incident during one of their rehearsals. A speeding car crashed into a group of people gathered outside the quadra (rehearsal hall) and was followed by a bomb explosion fifteen minutes later. One person was killed and 41 others were injured.

Portela was also one of the schools who were effected by an electrical fire at the Cidade do Samba in 2011. More than three thousand costumes, many floats and other props were destroyed a month before they were scheduled to compete in the Carnival festivities.

Leading the bateria (drum line) section for this year is rainha de bateria (queen of the drums) Patrícia Nery. Nery began her Carnival career as a muse to Portela for five years and this year will be her second year taking the title as rainha de bateria.

Rehearsals are open to the public and take place twice weekly, beginning on Wednesdays at 8PM and Fridays at 9PM, at the school’s quadra (rehearsal hall). To find out more information, see the school’s website.

G.R.E.S. Portela
Headquarters: Samba City (Warehouse 03)
60 Rua Rivadávia Correa – Gamboa
Phone: (21) 2233-4812

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