By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following the tallying of votes on Wednesday February 10th, judges declared G.R.E.S Estação Primeira de Mangueira samba school the Champion of the 2016 Carnival competition in Rio de Janeiro. This marked the school’s eighteenth official overall Carnival win.
Closing the second night of Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition on Monday February 8th, Mangueira had presented for the win the enredo (theme); “Maria Bethânia: A Menina dos Olhos de Oyá” (Maria Bethânia: The girl with Oyá’s eyes).
The theme paid tribute to the over fifty-year career of Brazilian MPB singer Maria Bethânia Viana Telles Veloso, best known simply as Maria Bethânia. Sister of famous Brazilain singer Caetano Veloso, Bethânia is an iconic figure in national music, having released almost fifty studio and live albums during her career.
Monday night’s parade also paid homage to the region where Maria Bethânia was born and raised in the state of Bahia and the religious side of the singer which was influenced by both the Catholic and Candomblé religions.
Caetano Veloso, his son Tom, and singers and actors including Mart’nália, Adriana Calcanhoto, Chico César, Zélia Duncan, Lúcia Veríssimo, Regina Casé, Vanessa da Mata, Renata Sorah and Ana Carolina, joined in the school’s parade along with Maria Bethânia herself.
The procession also featured a wing of school members dressed as the orixás Oyá and Oxum, both Candomblé figures important to Maria Bethânia.
Erler Schall Junior, the Carnival director of Mangueira, said that the “new blood” of young carnavalesco, the 31 year-old Leandro Vieira, that made a difference in school.
“Mangueira needed it. Leandro not only managed a year of crisis, but has built a better parade in a masterful way. [It was] simple, but with everything in its place. From the beginning he did everything to make sure it would work.”
Mangueira’s parade earned the overall score of 269.80, while samba schools Unidos da Tijuca and Portela placed 2nd and 3rd in the competition, both earning a total score of 269.70.
Mangueira was founded in 1928 in Morro da Mangueira, an area located near the neighborhood of Maracanã. The school’s founders included sambistas (samba composers) Carlos Cachaça, Cartola, Zé Espinguela, and Nelson Cavaquinho, among others.
Samba school Estácio de Sá earned 265.00 points placing it 12th and last place in the Special Group which will send the school back to the Série A league during the 2017 competition.
The top six schools, Mangueira, Unidos da Tijuca, Portela, Salgueiro, Beija-Flor, and Imperatriz , will return to the Sambódromo on Saturday, February 13th for the Champion’s Parade.