By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the second day of competitions, Saturday February 14th, eight samba schools of the second league, the Série A, will show off their samba songs, costumes and floats in colorful parades at Rio’s Sambódromo hoping to win the promotion to the Special Group for next year.
Alegria da Zona Sul (9PM) – One of the only samba schools from Zona Sul (South Zone), Alegria da Zona Sul was found in a fusion of Alegria de Copacabana and Unidos do Cantagalo in 1992 and respresents the communities of Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho.
The group known for treating the topic of black identity frequently, chose the enredo (theme) “Kari’Oka” this year, representing what it means to be a Carioca (Rio resident). Under the direction of carnavalesco Eduardo Minucci they sing about the jeito Carioca (way of dealing with things), such as in the lines: “I am Carioca by heart… and I go to the Maraca (Maracanã) to be champion…I live in the arms of Redentor. (…) If I am late, it’s the red traffic light’s fault…”
Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz (10:05 PM) – The school from the Zone Oeste (West Zone)’s Santa Cruz neighborhood is the school furthest away from the Sambódromo and therefore gained a reputation as being rural. The school is very involved in their neighborhood and also has several social projects.
Long in the Special Group, they had to parade in the dark due to a power blackout in 1991 and were not judged, which left them unprepared for the year after, so they lost their spot in the top league, but remain a group to watch. Their enredo this year is a homage to Brazilian actor, comedian and singer Grande Otelo with the title “O pequeno menino se tornou Grande Otelo” (the little boy who turned into the Great Otelo).
Inocentes de Belford Roxo (11:10 PM) – The rather new group, founded in 1993 represents Belford Roxo, a city in the Baixada Fluminense. It rose quick in the Carnival ranks since its foundation to one of the best schools of the former Access Group and paraded 2013 in the Special Group.
For 2015, they also pay homage to a Brazilian artist with the enredo “Nelson Sargento – Samba Inocente, pés no chão” (Nelson Sargento – innocent samba, feet on the ground). They honor famous sambista and singer-songwriter and Carioca Nelson Sargento, who is said to have written more than 400 songs.
Unidos de Padre Miguel (12:05 AM) – Founded in 1957, the school from the Padre Miguel neighborhood won the first parade they participated in in 1959. After that they spent a long time in the Access group, until they dropped until the lowest group of the Carnival ranks towards the turn of the century and now fought their way up. It was deemed a “surprise” last year when they made it to the 3rd place.
Led by carnavalesco Edson Pereira, their enredo this year is “O Cavaleiro Armorial Mandacariza o Carnaval”, a tribute to the Armorial art movement around Ariano Suassuna, who wanted to preserve the Brazilian northeastern culture. They use the verb mandacarizar from sertanejo (country), which comes from the Mandacuru cactus and describes the resistance against drought and seeing something positive even in the desert.
Império da Tijuca (1:20 AM) – They were the first school to use the term Imperium in their name and feature a large crown in their logo as a sign of nobility. The school originates from the Morro da Formiga in Tijuca and was founded in 1940. They paraded in the Special Group last year, but were relegated for 2015, a decision that had received a lot of criticism.
Their theme this year is “O Império nas águas doces de Oxum” (The Imperium in the sweet waters of Oxum) and is about Orisha goddess Oxum featured in Yoruba and Candomblé religions as the goddess of the sweet water, love, beauty and wealth.
Renascer de Jacarepaguá (2:25 AM) – Another school representing the West Zone of Rio, Renascer was founded in Jacarepaguá in 1992. In 2014 they had to give up their quadra (practical hall) due to the construction of the Transcarioca, but have now found a new shelter.
With their enredo “Candeia! Um manifesto ao povo em forma de arte” (Candeia, a manifest to the people in form of art) they pay respect to Antônio Candeia Filho, “the pride of the Brazilian sambistas”, who would have turned eighty this year. The song they created this time has already received praise by the critics.
Acamdêmicos do Cubango (3:30 AM) – The school from Niterói is part of the Rio Carnival since the 1980s together with fellow Niterói outfit Viradouro. They rose quickly in the Carnival ranks since then, but have yet to make it to the Special Group.
The carnevalesco Jaime Cezário chose to center their 2015 parade around their neighborhood’s African roots with “Cubango, A realeza africana de Niterói” (Cubango, the African royalty of Niterói). Cubango, a town in Angola, was the name the fled slaves chose for their Quilombo (freed slave dwellings) after they had escaped the black slave market that existed in Niterói
Estácio de Sá (4:35 AM) – The group is known as the cradle of samba and the first to use the term “school”. Founded in 1927, they are recognized by the Institute for National Patrimony, IPHAN, as the first samba school in Brazil. Last year, they were crowned vice-champion of the Série A only 0.5 points behind champion Viradouro.
Their theme this year is about Rio and Carnival and their own role as the cradle of the samba schools with the title “De braços abertos, de janeiro a janeiro, sorrio, sou Rio, sou Estácio de Sá!” (With open arms, from January to January, I smile, I am Rio, I am Estácio de Sá).