By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Winning the 2015 Série A competition, the samba school Estácio de Sá returns to the Grupo Especial (Special Group) this year after an eight-year absence and will be the first school to parade during the first of two nights of Special Group competition on Sunday, February 7th.

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Estácio de Sá won the 2015 Serié A competition with the theme, “De braços abertos, de janeiro a janeiro, sorrio, sou Rio, sou Estácio de Sá!” (With open arms, from January to January, I smile, I am Rio, I am Estácio de Sá), photo by Gabriel Santos/Riotur.

Represented by the colors red and white and the proud symbol of a lion, Estácio de Sá will charge down the Avenida Marquês de Sapucaí as they present the enredo (theme), “Salve Jorge! O Guerreiro na Fé ” (Hail Jorge! The Warrior in the Faith).

The theme is a tribute to the popular São Jorge, (Saint George), one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic Church. Known by legend as a soldier in the Roman army and as a Christian martyr depicted in multiple images, sculptures, and engravings slaying a Dragon.

Saint George is associated with military strength, war, and crusades. He is also associated with the colors red and white with patrons often wearing red on St. George’s Day and St. George’s Cross, the coat of arms attributed to him, featuring a red cross on white.

Estácio de Sá wrote in the synopsis of its enredo this year; “In all religions in which the saint is revered, the color red predominates in his flowing cloak, stripped, which reminds us of the warlike energy, aggressive, warlike, bold, associated with the same energy on the planet Mars, the red planet, connected to his birth.”

While the date of St. George’s birthday is debated by scholars, in most places he is celebrated on or around April 23rd, varying depending on the date of Easter each year.

“Mars emits strong vibrations as well as St. George, which is a name full of energy. By just pronouncing it, his devotees are filled with courage,” the synopsis continues, ” St. George is so loved, so charismatic and so diverse that meets the demands of the weak, desperate, homeless and marginalized. Holy of all faiths, of all societies and races: St. George.”

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This year will be the first time Estácio de Sá has paraded in the Special Group in eight years, photo by Gabriel Santos/Riotur.

For the parade this year, the school will be lead by a team of carnavalescos (Carnival Designers) including return designer Chico Spinoza, Amauri Santos and Tarcísio Zanon. Both Zanon and Santos helped lead the school to its Serié A victory in 2015 with the theme “De braços abertos, de janeiro a janeiro, sorrio, sou Rio, sou Estácio de Sá!” (With open arms, from January to January, I smile, I am Rio, I am Estácio de Sá).

Estácio de Sá was created in 1955 by combining several sambas school including Deixa Falar, the samba school recognized by the Institute for National Patrimony, IPHAN, as the first samba school in Brazil. Estácio de Sá was originally represented by the colors blue and white, but in 1965 the school adopted red and white in honor of the historic Deixa Falar school.

Estácio de Sá won their first and only overall Carnival championship in 1992. Led by carnaveslcos Mário Monteiro and Chico Spinoza, they presented the theme “Paulicéia Desvairada – 70 anos de Modernismo” (Paulicéia Desvairada – 70 years of Modernism) a tribute to a famous collection of poems by Mário de Andrade that was published in 1922 and is often credited with introducing modernism to Brazilian poetry.

The school remained in the Special Group for five years following their victory but slipped into the Access A group (now Serié A) in 1998. In 2005 they slipped lower into the B Group but fought their way back to the A Group in 2006 and earned a spot in Special Group in 2007. A short-lived advancement, the school slipped back into the Access Group in 2008 and remained there until their victory last year.

Given their history and choice of themes this year, Estácio de Sá is a school to watch during the competition. If all goes well, their parade promises to be a great start to the 2016 Special Group competition.

Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.

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