By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, February 11th, Mangueira samba school will be starring at Carnival 2018. The sixth Grupo Especial (Special Group) school to parade at this year’s championship is expected to enter the Sapucaí at 2:40 AM (already on Monday), and will be watched closely as it calls attention to Mayor Crivella’s cuts on Rio’s Carnival.
Competence and professionalism perfectly define Mangueira, nineteen times winner of the Grupo Especial championship – only standing behind Portela samba school. Born in the Mangueira favela community, in Zona Norte (North Zone), in 1928, Mangueira is, undoubtedly, an inspirational model for the younger samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.
Mangueira is known among Carnival experts for being the first school to have created a composers’ “ala” (group of people parading at the Sambódromo along with the school). What’s more, the “verde-e-rosa” (how Mangueira is called, due to its green-and-pink flag) won the championship in the year of Sambódromo’s very inauguration, in 1984.
Among Mangueira’s remarkable characters is Jamelão, the school’s official singer from 1949 to 2006, owner of a powerful, sounding voice; and Cartola, renowned samba composer, one of Mangueira’s main founders.
The school last conquered the first place in 2016, with “Maria Bethânia: A menina dos olhos de Oyá”, samba enredo dedicated to Brazilian singer and composer Maria Bethânia (sister of Caetano Veloso).
This Carnival, it will be impossible to remain indifferent to Mangueira’s parade at the Sambódromo: it will enter the Avenida (how the venue is popularly called) with “Com Dinheiro ou Sem Dinheiro, Eu Brinco!” (With or Without Money, I Will Play!), controversial samba enredo that criticizes Rio’s City Hall, which shortened Carnival’s budget
“The theme Mangueira presents this year, when it celebrates its 90th anniversary, is highly contemporary. I find it emblematic for our school, which has never been so contesting as this Carnival. Those who look from the outside can see how alive Mangueira is,” says Leandro Vieira, Mangueira’s carnavalesco (person of charge of the school’s artistic direction.
Composed by Lequinho, Júnior Fionda, Alemão do Cavaco, Gabriel Machado, Wagner Santos, Gabriel Martins e Igor Leal, the sarcastic samba enredo seems to directly tease Mayor Crivella, who is also a bishop of Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus – neopentecostal church known for assuming a more conservative posture against Afro Brazilian cultural expressions, including the Carnival.
“Eu sou Mangueira meu senhor, sou Universal/ Pecado é não brincar o Carnaval!” (“I am Mangueira, my lord, I am Universal/ Sin is not to enjoy Carnival!”), says the lyrics.
Among Mangueira’s several remarkable samba enredos, some are still sung and played in “rodas de samba” until the present day, like the 1994’s “Atrás da Verde e Rosa só não vai quem já morreu”, “Caymmi mostra ao mundo o que a Bahia e a Mangueira têm” (1986) and the 2002’s “Vou Invadir o Nordeste, Sou Cabra da Peste”.
Those interested in participating in Carnival 2018 still have the opportunity to walk on the Sambódromo with Mangueira samba school. In order to purchase one of the four available costumes, one must contact the school. Email addresses and numbers can be found here.
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.