By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – G.R.E.S. Estação Primeira de Mangueira, known simply as Mangueira, has won the Rio Carnival competition no less than eighteen times, and has the distinction of being the first school to take the championship title at the original Sambódromo parade. After ranking 3rd last year, they will be performing at the 2012 Carnival on Monday, February 20th, at 12:15 AM.
With Carnival just around the corner, Mangueira are competing for the championship title which has eluded them in the last ten years, with the ‘Enredo’ (Theme) “Vou festejar! Sou Cacique, sou Mangueira” meaning “I will celebrate! I’m Caicique! I’m Mangueira!”
The plot pays homage to the most famous Carnival band of Rio de Janeiro, Cacique de Ramos, who have just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The band traditionally parade on the Rio Branco Avenue on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of Carnival, and were recently awarded the Tiradentes Medal for its contribution and representation of the city’s local culture.
Though it has experienced a rocky ride, such as a rumored involvement in a drug trafficking problem in 2008 and, later, suffering the loss of one of its greatest icons, samba musician, Jamelão, Mangueira has never strayed far from the hearts of its fans.
Mangueira was founded in 1928 in Niterói, just across the bay. It pioneered the Rio Carnival tradition via a succession of Cordões, in which a masked procession took to the streets accompanied by the sounds of a percussion band and shrill whistles.
The school has, possibly, the largest number of celebrity followers, both from Brazil and worldwide. Famous names include Alcione Nazareth, one of Brazil’s most successful female sambists, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and International actor and director Vincent Cassel.
There was also an acclaimed documentary film on the school released last year named “The Samba Within Me” focusing on the samba school’s role in the community, a favela still struggling with the city’s pacification process.
Brazilian actress and singer Renata Santos has once again been recruited as Mangueira’s Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the Drums) for the third consecutive year. Santos has experienced a long standing love affair with Rio’s Carnival which started at a young age when she made her debut as Rainha da Bateria for Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz.
Speaking about her dedication to Carnival with O Globo news publication G1 the actress said “It is very hard for me to miss a rehearsal. I make a point to attend at least 99 percent of trials.”
When asked about what may be in store during Mangueira’s parade however, Santos remained tight lipped, stating “I can only say that there will be many surprises and that the fantasy will come as very good.”
The school will be hosting rehearsal parties every Saturday through January and February until the official Carnival parade. To lend support to Mangueira, watch them during dress rehearsal at the Sambódromo on February 5th at 8PM. Find out more at the website.