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By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Occupying a spot in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) for decades, the league’s current champion school G.R.E.S Estação Primeira de Mangueira will be the last school to perform in this year’s Carnival parade competition at the Sambódromo.

Mangueira perform in 2016's Champion's Parade, photo by Gabriel Santos/Riotur. Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Carnival, Carnival 2016, Grupo Especial, Sambódromo, Champion's parade, carnival parade competition
G.R.E.S Estação Primeira de Mangueira perform in 2016’s Champion’s Parade, photo by Gabriel Santos/Riotur.

Performing under a pink-and-green flag, the school’s display this year is scheduled for the evening of Monday, February 27th at approximately 3:25 AM.

Last year was Mangueira’s 19th win in the Grupo Especial competition. The school, which was formed in 1928 and is one of the oldest, this year hopes to become champion for the second consecutive year with an enredo (theme or plot) centered on Brazil’s religious syncretism.

The enredo, called ‘Só com a ajuda do santo’ (‘Only with the help of the saint’), will show Brazilian devotion to saints and religious figures from Catholicism and Afro-Brazilian religions. Special tribute will be paid to Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Virgin Mary) and patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, São Sebastião.

Other Catholic figures honored within the enredo will by Northeastern priest and spiritual leader Padre Cícero, plus twin Christian martyr saints Cosme and Damião. Other characters to pass through the Sambódromo will include São Jorge, Santo Antônio and São João. Choregraphy and costumes will also feature nods to folkloric festivals and celebrations within the enredo, including Folia de Reis and Festa Juninha.

Meanwhile, Afro-Brazilian religions will also receive tribute from the school, with recreation of Congada’s signature dramatic dances, plus homages to Iemanjá and Xangô and references to other orixas, terreiros and gongás of Umbanda.

Leandro Vieira, Mangueira’s Carnavalesco (Carnival designer), told G1 that the enredo is adopting the same approach as many Brazilians do, adopting multiple religious superstitions as a demonstration of appreciation and a plea for luck.

Mangueira Samba School in the 2016 parade competition, photo by LIESA/Fat Press. Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Carnival, Carnival 2016, Grupo Especial, Sambódromo, Champion's parade, carnival parade competition
Mangueira Samba School in the 2016 parade competition, photo by LIESA/Fat Press.

“The plot has two aspects: one of gratitude, to see Mangueira, a school in financial difficulties, who had not paraded for the past five years on Champion’s Saturday and for 14 years did not win a title,” said Vieira. “And another request, for help to keep the spirit of the components high and try to become a bi-champion.”

Adding, “The Brazilian is very like that, a people of a plural religiosity, who goes to mass, lights candle for a saint, but also throws flowers in the sea for Iemanjá, carries patuás (Candomble amulets) in the pocket. It is this mixture of faith that asks for help, thanks and celebrates with the saints.”

“It is not a religious plot but an artistic manifestation of the devotional aspect that is a characteristic trait of Brazil, as a nation.”

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.

This article originally stated that Mangueira samba school had won eighteen championships instead of nineteen, and has since been corrected.

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