By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Considered to be the “happiest” samba school in the special group, G.R.E.S. União da Ilha do Governador has risen to prominence since it was founded in 1953 by a group of friends from Ilha do Governador, (Governor’s Island) in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone).

A member of União da Ilha at the 2011 parade, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
A member of União da Ilha in a recent Carnival, photo by Sfmission/Flickr Creative Commons License.

After watching a street parade in their local area of Cacuia, the group became inspired to create their own regional samba school, feeling that it deserved a place in the competition to represent their unique home.

The road to success has not always been smooth for the school, which remained in the second and third classes for many years until finally making it into the special category in 1974 after being crowned champions of the second group.

Most importantly perhaps, União da Ilha has gained widespread recognition for their catchy theme songs such as the 1989 hit “Festa Profana,” (Party Profane) which is known throughout Brazil and earned the school third place in the special group. Other memorable songs include “Hoje o Dia” (Today is the Day) from 1982 and “O Amanhã” (Tomorrow) from 1978, both of which were recorded by a number of prominent Brazilian artists.

The 2012 parade will see União da Ilha kick start the countdown to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic games via the enredo (theme) “Carnival 2012 de Londres ao Rio: Era uma vez.. uma Ilha” (From London to Rio: Once upon a time… an island…).

This special tribute is designed to illustrate the connection between both London and Rio, two great cities built around a great river that have both been chosen to take on the huge responsibility of hosting the Olympic games.

An aerial view of União da Ilha at the 2011 Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News.
An aerial view of União da Ilha at the 2011 Carnival, photo by Luiz Fernando/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Many associations will be made between Britain and the home of União da Ilha, which also includes the club’s official colors of red, white and blue that correspond with those of the British flag. Particular emphasis will be directed toward Saint George of England and São Sebastião of Rio de Janeiro, who are both considered patrons of the school.

União da Ilha was one of three schools that suffered as a result of a fire which broke out at Samba City just weeks before Carnival 2011. Since then, the school has worked hard to rebuild itself and will be using the tragedy as an incentive to succeed, having brought the school closer together and inspiring greater determination for victory.

The theme, which will portray the Olympic flame that shall pass from London to Rio, symbolizes the fire that occurred last February and, just as many Olympic athletes’ overcome difficulties before victory, so too have the members of União da Ilha.

Any Britons in the audience will likely notice references to Shakespeare, the famous British playwright of the 15th Century, as well as homage paid to London during the “swinging sixties,” a decade made famous for its free thinking and youth culture.

The school hopes that the performance will help to remind people that União da Ilha was, and still very much is, a great island filled with joy and samba and, above all, determination.

Watch them perform on February 20, 2012 as the second performance of the night taking place at the Sambodromo. For more information about the school, including their rehearsal calendar, see their web site.


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