By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Thirteen-time Carnival Champion samba school, Beija-Flor de Nilópolis will parade third during the first night of Grupo Especial (Special Group) competitions this year on February 7th. During the parade the school will pay tribute to Marquês de Sapucaí in the venue named for the historic figure, the famed Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí.
Beija-Flor de Nilópolis, best known simply as Beija-Flor, won their thirteenth Carnival title last year, during the 2015 Special Group competitions. That win came despite controversy surrounding their enredo (theme) and funding.
Their theme, “Um griô conta a história: Um olhar sobre a África e o despontar da Guiné Equatorial. Caminhemos sobre a trilha de nossa felicidade” (A griot [a West African storyteller] tells the story: A look at Africa and the emergence of Equatorial Guinea. Let us walk on the path of our happiness) was problematic to some due to that fact that Equatorial Guinea is led by dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power of the country in a bloody 1979 coup. The parade also raised questions about the funding and sponsorships of samba schools.
Beija-Flor officials defended their decisions and parade choices and this year will present a more traditional and classic Brazilian theme, “Mineirinho Genial! Nova Lima – Cidade Natal. Marquês de Sapucaí – O Poeta Imortal.” The theme honors Cândido José de Araújo Viana, Marquis of Sapucaí, the famed Brazilian professor, poet, musician, writer, politician, and namesake of Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí where the Carnival competitions are held.
“He was the right arm of Dom Pedro II [the second and final ruler of the Brazilian Empire],” one of Beija-Flor carnavalescos (Carnival designers) Fran Sérgio told G1. “He held the positions of deputy, senator and minister and worked above all to make Brazil a better country. He had great influence in the making of the Golden Law, he exercised political office in Maranhão, Alagoas and other parts of Brazil and wherever he went he left a legacy of improvements.”
“The Marquis, for all he did, should be welcomed and applauded,” Sérgio later added.”Beija-Flor will pay a great tribute to the man who gives his name to the Avenue of the parades. Not least because school was the first to win a title in Sapucai, in 1978, when the parades began to be held on that avenue, even before the construction of the Sambadromó.”
The 1978 victory was the school’s third win. Founded in 1948 as a Carnival bloco in the Baixada Fluminense city of Nilópolis, Beija-Flor, which means hummingbird in Portuguese, went from local bloco to a registered samba school in only five years time. They first officially paraded in Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival in 1954.
Seeing moderate success during their first two decades, it took the addition of famed carnavalesco Joãosinho Trinta to help the school achieve its first victory in 1976. Trinta remained with the school for seventeen consecutive years, helping Beija-Flor to earn four more victories in 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1983.
Beija-Flor’s next victory came in 1998. That year, the school used a team of carnavalescos consisting of Fran Sérgio, Anderson Müller, Cid Carvalho, Ubiratan Silva, Nélson Ricardo, Amarildo de Mello, Paulo Führo and Victor Santos. The school has employed a collective in place of one carnvelesco ever since and that strategy has helped them to earn seven more championships in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2015.
With their long, successful history and their theme paying tribute to the namesake of the venue, Beija-Flor is a school to watch this year.