By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Samba school Portela will enter the famed Sambódromo to parade fourth on February 8th during the second night of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Carnival Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition. Well known for their symbol of an eagle with its wings outstretched the school is prepared to soar during this year’s parade as they present the enredo (theme): “No voo da águia, uma viagem sem fim…” ( The eagle’s flight, an endless journey… ).
Portela’s journey as a samba school thus far has been a long, at times tumultuous path with many successful moments. One of the most traditional schools, Portela was a founding partner of the Carnival competition together with schools Mangueira and Estácio de Sa.
Many historians believe that Portela was founded in the neighborhood of Oswaldo Cruz in 1923, as a carnival group called known as Conjunto Oswaldo Cruz.
Since the school’s entry into the competition in 1929, Portela has maintained a spot in the top league, never falling to a lower group in almost ninety years of competition. The school has won the tile of Carnival champion a total of twenty-one times.
Although their past victories are numerous, Portela has not earned a victory in over twenty years, last taking home the title in 1984. The school came close in 1995, winning Vice-champion and won third place 2009 and in 2014. In 2015, Portela won 5th place with their presentation of the theme: “ImaginaRio, 450 janeiros de uma cidade surreal” (ImagineRio, 450 Januarys of a surreal city). It was a tribute to the city of Rio de Janeiro and its 450th anniversary.
During its own history, Portela has also faced a number of challenges. In February 2013, there was a tragic incident during one of Portela’s rehearsals for its Carnival parade that year.
A speeding car crashed into a group of people gathered outside the quadra (rehearsal hall) and was followed by a bomb explosion fifteen minutes later. One person was killed and 41 others were injured.
In 2011, Portela was also one of the schools effected by an electrical fire at the Cidade do Samba. More than three thousand costumes, many floats and other props were destroyed a month before they were scheduled to compete in the Carnival festivities.
This year, Portela will retell the history of mankind with the eagle as the guide. From early indigenous peoples to early explorers to scientific discoveries to fictional characters, Portela will attempt to take the audience on a trip through time and space.
“Through the eagle eyes, Portela invites the public to travel,” carnavalesco (Carnival designer) Paulo Barros told G1. “And it will include all that a trip can provide: pursuit of knowledge, achievements, curiosities, culture, satisfaction, joy, dreams. The eagle’s eyes are the common thread of this journey through the history of mankind.”