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By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – February is just around the corner and it’s little more than a fortnight until Rio de Janeiro’s inhabitants and visitors find themselves at the grandest Carnival in the world. The atmosphere around the Cidade Maravilhosa is already heating up and not just because of the rising temperature.

Imperatriz Leopoldinenses beauty, photo by sfmission.com/Flickr, Creative Commons License.
Imperatriz Leopoldinenses beauty, photo by sfmission.com/Flickr, Creative Commons License.

The samba schools are almost ready for the Sambodrome competition, amongst them is Imperatriz Leopoldinense, the “gremio” (club) from Ramos.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense has won the Carnival contest eight times and is considered to be one of Carnivals leading performers. Extravagant luxury and overwhelming beauty have distinguished the school’s past performances on the Sapocaí catwalk.

Imperatriz is actually the only school from the Rio de Janeiro league ever to win with straight A’s – the equivalent of all tens – at the Sambodrome Carnival contest. The samba school from Ramos went on to repeat this uncanny feat an astonishing three times: in 1980, 1989 and 2001.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense was founded in 1959 in Ramos, a very old neighborhood in the northern area of the Rio, where Rio’s artificial beach, the Piscinão de Ramos, now stands.

The school’s colors are green, white and gold and its symbol is a crown, and the club’s name was chosen in honor of Leopoldina von Habsburg of Austria, and also Empress of Brazil, Emperor Dom Pedro’s first wife. She was a great politician in her time, and one of the main champions of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. It was thanks to the Empress’ intervention that, on September 2nd, 1821, the country’s declaration of independence was signed.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense's float from the 2009 carnival, photo by sfmission.com/Flickr, Creative Commons License.
Imperatriz Leopoldinense's float from the 2009 carnival, photo by sfmission.com/Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense is a definite contender for the title this year. Its 2010 theme for the parade is “Brasil de todos os Deuses” (Brazil of all Gods), a very deep and interesting “enredo” (theme) that touches on delicate matters of religion.

The gremio’s parade will be an anthropological walk across the different faces of faith one may meet in the country, be they global religions such as Buddhism and Christianity, or indigenous like the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda and Candomblé.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense will be parading on the first night of the Sambodrome contest, February 14th, sometime around 10PM.

They hold rehearsals every Sunday night, at its facility on Rua Professor Lacê, 235, in the northern area of the neighborhood. The event starts at 8PM and entrance only costs R$5. Ramos can be reached by bus with a few lines leaving from the downtown area.

Technical rehearsals at the Sambodrome continue lifting the carnival spirit higher. Last weekend Mangueira and Unidos da Tijuca had their go on the catwalk. Next weekend, on January 30th, samba fans will be expecting to see Portela and Porto da Pedra practice and then, after that, on January 31st it will be Grande Rio’s and Vila Isabel’s turn.

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