By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Known for their playful, light, and animated themes, samba school União da Ilha do Governador will parade second for the Grupo Especial (Special Group) on Sunday, February 7th. The school was created in 1953 by Maurício Gazelle, Quincas and Orphylo, a group of friends in the Cacuia neighborhood of the Ilha do Governador who wanted to form a school that represented them and their area of the city.

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União da Ilha will parade second during the 1st night of the Special Group competition on February 7th, photo by Gabriel Santos/Riotur.

While União da Ilha do Governador, best known as União da Ilha, has yet to win the overall Carnival Championship during its over sixty-year history, it has paraded in the Special Group during many years of its history.

The school reached its highest level to date in in 1980, winning Vice-Champion that year and the school’s samba enredo (theme song) “É hoje o dia” (Today is the day) from the 1982 Carnival is now one of the best known and widely performed samba songs in Carnival history.

In 2015, the school earned ninth place in the Special Group with their presentation of the theme “Beleza pura?” (Pure beauty?). The theme examined the meaning and depictions of beauty by referencing Plato and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” among other things.

This year the school will present the theme “Olímpico por natureza… Todo mundo se encontra no Rio” (Olympic in nature … Everyone is meeting in Rio). The theme will celebrate the city during the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games by welcoming, educating, and cautioning those arriving to city while linking their arrival to the descent of the gods from Mount Olympus.

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In 2015, União da Ilha presented the theme “Beleza pura?” (Pure beauty?), photo by Fernando Maia/Riotur.

The synopsis of theme, loosely translated, begins; “Attention passengers on the Olympus / Rio flight, direct, nonstop: Within a few minutes we will be landing at Tom Jobim International Airport in the city of Rio de Janeiro. But right now, we warn: this city is ‘angry’, enter of your own free will!”

The synopsis then goes on the link Rio de Janeiro’s natural elements with the character of its inhabitants and the history of the city. ” ‘Sailboats strolling by the sea …,'” it states. “Rio was born to run …Land, mountains, forest, sand and asphalt, Rio’s geography is an invitation for movement. Step by step, the city always draws its path toward beauty. Running, cycling, climbing, breaking any track or playing some ball, the land is sacred ground for the celebration of sport.”

This year, Paulo Menezes and Jack Vasconcelos are serving as the União da Ilha’s carnavalescos (Carnival designers) and the school promises colorful depictions of Zeus, other Greek mythological figures, tourists complete with luggage, and representations of nature including a wing with 500 people dressed as suns during the parade.

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.

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