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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – G.R.E.S. São Clemente, the only samba school from Zona Sul (South Zone) in the Special Group, will start the second night of the top league’s parades on Monday, February 16th. The school known for its ironic treatment of themes and social criticism has strolled down the Sambódromo every year since the construction of the parading ground in 1984.

São Clemente is the only group from Zona Sul in the Special Group, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
São Clemente is the only group from Zona Sul in the Special Group, photo by Marcelo Regua/Riotur.

São Clemente was formed out of a football team of youngsters in the Zona Sul neighborhood Botafogo in 1951. The team created a “bloco de sujo” (dirty bloco), an unregistered, improvisational group, and paraded down the streets of their neighborhood.

In 1961 they became an official Carnival representative of the Zona Sul, when they turned their bloco into the Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba (G.R.E.S.) of São Clemente and quickly rose through the Carnival ranks.

Even though the group has never left the Sambódromo it frequently changed positions from the Access Group to the Special Group and back throughout the years, giving them the reputation of being a “Yo-yo” group. Yet, since 2011 they have not left the Special Group, although they never reached their best position of 6th rank from 1990 again.

São Clemente is known for having modern topics and being close to what is happening in Brazilian society. In 2010, their parading theme was about Rio’s Shock and Order operations, in 2013 it was about the novelas (soap operas) and last year the theme was “Favela”.

However, this year they chose a more classical Carnival theme in honoring famous carnavalesco Fernando Pamplona with the enredo (theme): “A incrível história do homem que só tinha medo da Matinta Perera, da tocandira e da onça pé de boi” (The incredible story of the man, who was just afraid of Matinta Perera, of giant ants, and the jaguar with bull-feet).

The topic of their parade in 2014 was "Favela", Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The topic of their parade in 2014 was “Favela”, photo by Marco Antonio Cavalcante/Riotur.

The parade will follow Pamplona’s life and his success as carnavalesco. The title of the theme represents Pamplona’s youth in the northern state of Acre as the figures mentioned are part of famous Northern legends.

Matinta Perera is a witch, which in Brazilian folklore transforms into a bird at night that whistles around people’s houses and roofs until the residents promise her something in order to stop her annoying whistling. If the gift is then not given, something bad will happen with those who broke the promise.

Together with the giant ants and the jaguar with bull-feet, other legendary symbols from the Amazonas and Acre, Matinta is part of folklore legends, which served as inspiration to Pamplona in his work.

After his return to Rio, Pamplona who graduated from the National School of the Fine Arts, got famous as actor and set designer in theaters. In 1959, he was then named a judge in the Carnival parades and captured by samba school Salgueiro’s performance.

Consequently, he was asked to help Salgueiro for the following year. He accepted under the condition that the parade was about Zumbi dos Palmares, former slave and Quilombo leader. It got famous as the first parade about the life of a non-official figure of Brazilian history and won Salgueiro the championship.

Pamplona won four Carnival championships with Salgueiro and made it to the second place another three times. Led by carnavalesca Rosa Magalhães, São Clemente will try to repeat Pamplona’s success with this parade about his life and take their first Special Group title in 2015.

G.R.E.S. São Clemente
Quadra (Practice Hall)
Avenida Presidente Vargas, 3102
Cidade Nova

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