By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last year’s winner Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Unidos da Tijuca are the last school to enter the Sambódromo in this year’s Carnival. Their title defending parade is expected in the early morning hours of the parade that starts on Monday, February 16th.
Unidos da Tijuca have been crowned champion four times so far, very early in Rio’s Carnival in 1936, and then fairly recently in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The samba school was founded in December 1931 and is one of the oldest samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. As many of the more traditional schools, it came out of a fusion of existing Carnival blocos around the hills of Morro do Borel in Tijuca’s sub-neighborhood Usina.
In 1936 the school won their first championship with a parade about ‘delusional dreams’. In the parade, which at the time took place at Praça Onze in Centro, Tijuca was the first school to use floats to depict their theme.
However, Tijuca could not continue their success and from 1960 to 1980 the school faced a difficult time, falling to lower leagues and with no titles to climb to the Special Group again.
But after the accession to the Special Group in 1980 and a few up and down years, Tijuca now has consistently been part of the first league since 1998 and are currently a school to always take into consideration when talking about the Carnival championship. They won three recent titles, the last one being in 2014 with a parade about Formula 1 racer Ayrton Senna, with “Acelera, Tijuca!” (Speed up Tijuca).
Carnavalesco (Carnival parade designer) Paulo Barros showed the universe of speed, such as the fastest animals and sports that require great speed, and the motor and car races world of Senna’s life. The whole parade down the race-track like Sambódromo was described as a constant stream of speedy movement.
Despite the title, Paulo Barros left Unidos da Tijuca and the school is now back to using a group of Carnival designers for this year’s parade. Without Barros, they have also decided to turn away from the pop culture style parade with music and film references and move back to a more classic, traditional parade.
This year’s enredo (theme) is called “Um conto marcado no tempo – O olhar suíço de Clóvis Bornay” (A tale marked in time – The Swiss view of Clóvis Bornay). The parade is about how the Swiss’ father of ex-carnavalesco Clóvis Bornay told him stories about the magical country of his homeland and is partly sponsored by Switzerland.
Clóvis Bornay was a museologist and Carnival parade designer. It was him who convinced the Teatro Municipal in Rio to have masked balls with a costume contest, similar to Venice in 1937 and he was also the first winner with a Hindu prince costume. He went on to parade with samba schools and then became a famous and successful costume and parade designer.
Bornay’s father was a Swiss watchmaker and the parade imagines a dream Bornay had about all the tales his father told him about Switzerland. It will feature edelweiss flowers, archer William Tell and the St. Bernard dogs that are called to rescue people buried in avalanches.
But, Tijuca also aims to show that Switzerland is not only a cold country of kings and castles, but also the crib of invention and technological advancement. Therefore, watches, as well as music boxes and even Cern’s particle accelerator will be other parts of this year’s parade.