By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – First formed in 1956 and remaining in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) since 1990, Imperatriz Leopoldinense will be the third samba school to perform in the Sambódromo on Sunday, February 26th. The school, named after the famous Austrian archduchess in Rio Maria Leopoldina, placed sixth in last year’s competition.
This year, the school will pay homage to Brazil’s indigenous population and their connection to nature in an enredo (plot) called, ‘Xingu, o clamor da floresta’ (Xingu, the cry of the forest). Imperatriz Leopoldinense intends to honour the seventeen ethnic groups that live in Mato Grosso’s Parque Indígena do Xingu and their connection to nature.
Cahê Rodrigues, Imperatriz’s carnavalesco (Carnival designer), told G1 that his aesthetic focus this year is “the exuberance of the flora and fauna of the forest”, departing from the school’s previous use of neon lights in favor of simpler materials such as straw and feathers. Each of the seventeen groups will be represented by different headdresses, props and body painting.
Beginning with how the first Portuguese colonizers were dazzled by the natural wonders and wealth of Brazil’s interior, Imperatriz Leopoldinense will tell the tale of the Xingu’s battle for their rights from colonization to modern day. The school’s message, through this tale, is that the destruction of nature in Latin America and the Caribbean on account of profit has created an imbalance, through which the human connection to nature and to beauty could soon be lost.
The enredo caused some controversy when it was first announced in early January, with agribusiness magnates voicing their opposition to the theme’s apparent anti-agribusiness undertones. Imperatriz Leopoldinense has since clarified that it is pro-conservation and in favor of ethical farming, rather than making a statement on the agribusiness sector.
Rodrigues told G1 that he has been fascinated by indigenous tribes for over a decade, and is glad to use the opportunity to raise awareness of their contemporary struggles. “I decided to take advantage of the carnival to give voice to the struggle of the Indians. We are going to do a parade to awaken people’s conscience,” he said.
The school, born in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) neighborhood of Ramos, finished 6th in last year’s competition and has a green, gold and white flag. Imperatriz Leopoldinense was the reigning champion of the Grupo Especial from 1999 to 2001, but has not reached the top of the league since. This year’s performance is due to take place shortly after midnight on Sunday, February 26th.
Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the other competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.