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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The G.R.E.S. União da Ilha samba school from Ilha do Governador (Governor’s Island) will compete for the title of this year’s Carnival championship on the second day of the Special Group parades on Monday, February 16th. The school is set to enter the Sambódromo as fourth group at around 12:15 AM.

União da Ilha are known for their playful and light, but animated themes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
União da Ilha are known for their playful and light, but animated themes, photo by Raphael David/Riotur.

The samba school, officially named Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba União da Ilha, was founded by a group of friends in March of 1953 in the Cacuia neighborhood of the Ilha do Governador, as they wanted a school that represented their community.

The school known for its playful and light, but animated themes has never won a Carnival Championship so far, but since it had made it to the Access Group (today Série A) in 1974 was considered a school to be reckoned with.

They continued to climb the ranks and were crowned vice-champion of the Carnival competition in 1980. Their samba enredo (samba theme song) from 1982 “É hoje o dia” (Today is the day) is one of the best known and re-recorded samba songs in the history of Carnival.

However, for a long time the school’s last participation in the Champions Parade (where the best six schools parade again) was in 1994 with a fourth place. They were even relegated in 2001 and spent several years in the Access Group again from 2002-2009.

In another setback União da Ilha lost almost all the school’s parade costumes and props in a fire just weeks before the Carnival parade in 2011. But the group didn’t give up and paraded as if it was for the title, although they were not judged that year.

União da Ilha's parade in 2014 was about childhood, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
União da Ilha’s parade in 2014 was about childhood, photo by Marco Antônio Cavalcante/Riotur.

Then finally last year, their efforts bore fruit and União da Ilha made the fourth place again in the Special Group with the enredo (theme): “É Brinquedo, é brincadeira. A Ilha vai levantar poeira!” (It is a toy, it is a joke, Ilha will stir up the dust) and a parade about childhood and being playful.

In 2015, they will take last year’s theme to the next level with “Beleza pura?” (pure beauty?), explaining the theme on their website as “Now the child has grown up and the game is another one. He/She feels the need to be accepted in society and beauty is one of the possibilities to include him/her, in a world of appearances, where as they say, an image is more worth than a thousand words.”

União da Ilha’s shot at the first title will again in a playful, but also ironic way treat the question of beauty and dig into philosopher’s statements such as Plato’s “Beauty is the splendor of truth.” Topics such as obsessions with beauty, the equation of beautiful with good and ugly with bad and the suffering for beauty should all make part of the school’s parade.

Their song states at the end (roughly translated) “I’m on TV (it’s me, it’s me!). I am the face of wealth, I take pictures of myself. I just want to appear. I came from nothing into life, nothing I will take with me. The heart tells me that eternal youth is to be happy. Be happy!”

For more information, visit their website.

G.R.E.S. União da Ilha
Estrada do Galeão, 322
Cacuia – Ilha do Governador
Tel: (21) 3396-8169

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