By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last Sunday, February 11th, Mangueira samba school stood out for its impeccable performance on the first night of Grupo Especial’s championship. Considered the most likely school to be first placed in Carnival 2018, Mangueira had all eyes on them as they criticized Mayor Crivella’s controversial budgetary cuts.
Initially expected to enter the Sambódromo at 2:40 AM, Mangueira’s parade in fact started at 4:35 AM. The delay was due to some technical problems faced by Grande Rio samba school, which preceded Mangueira on the Avenida and had a broken “carro alegórico” (thematic cars) during its performance.
Despite the unforeseen event, Mangueira shined on the Avenida like no other, thrilling the audience with the samba enredo “Com dinheiro ou sem dinheiro, eu brinco”, a powerful cry out for the preservation of Carnival’s cultural heritage and against Rio’s City Hall cuts on the funds for the samba schools.
Apart from its provocative lyrics, which included a strong chorus line saying that “Sin is to not enjoy Carnival” (alluding to Crivella’s relation with the Igreja Universal, neo-pentecostal church of which he is a bishop), Mangueira stood out for its perspicacious, brave plot and creative “carros alegóricos”.
Among the highlights of Mangueira’s parade are a Judas puppet representing Crivella; the homage to Rio Carnival’s traditional blocos, with members from blocos like Cordão da Bola Preta, Cacique de Ramos and Bafo de Onça; the presence of samba greats Alcione, Leci Brandão and Nelson Sargento; and a controversial poster saying “the Mayor does not know what he is doing”.
Even though Mangueira is considered to be Sunday’s favorite, last night was also marked by the outstanding performances of samba schools Império Serrano, which returned to Grupo Especial after eight years in the Second League; Vila Isabel, having impressed the spectators with a futurist samba enredo; and Paraíso do Tuiuti, which brought impressive costumes and carros alegóricos to the Sapucaí.
Tonight, February 12th, the last six schools from Grupo Especial will be parading on the Avenida, the schools are: Unidos da Tijuca, Portela, União da Ilha, Salgueiro, Imperatriz Leopoldinense and Beija-Flor.