By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Established in 1953, G.R.E.S. União da Ilha do Governador (known as União da Ilha) is renowned for its innovative and playful enredos (themes), and they will be the second school to parade at the Sambódromo on Monday, March 3rd. Having fought their way into the Grupo Especial (Special Group) for the first time in 1975, this modest school continues to attract a wide audience of Brazilians and foreigners alike.

União da Ilha Samba School in Carnival 2014, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The leading flag bearers for Uniao da Ilha in Carnival 2013, photo by Tata Barreto/RioTur.

The União da Ilha was set up by a group of friends from Ilha do Governador (Governors Island) in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) who felt their home deserved its own samba school.

Despite their best efforts, União da Ilha is yet to be crowned Carnival champion. The school began its steady climb through the ranks since it was established in the 1950s, eventually joining the Grupo Accesso (Access Group) in 1974. The following year, União da Ilha’s hard work paid off and it finally earned a place in the coveted Grupo Especial.

One of União da Ilha’s most memorable themes was their ‘From London to Rio’ theme in Carnival 2012, which attracted attention from onlookers at the Sambódromo, as well as foreign audiences from the UK. It focused on the significant passing of the Olympic torch between the two cities and also depicted iconic British culture including a procession of Buckingham Palace guards and characters from the famed children’s book, Alice in Wonderland.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Uniao da Ilha parading in Carnival 2013, photo by Marco Antonio Cavalcanti/RioTur.

In keeping with the playful personality of the school, this year’s theme is ‘É brinquedo, é brincadeira, a Ilha vai levantar poeira’ which translates to ‘It is a toy, it is a joke, the Ilha will raise dust’. Under the carnavalesco (Carnival designer) Alex de Souza, the theme is an example of their whimsical character and willingness to have fun and act youthful.

Leading the school’s bateria (drum line) since 2005 and again this year is the Rainha de Bateria (Queen of Drums) Bruna Bruno. Since having this long reign as Rainha de Bateria, this year Bruno opened her own physical training facility to focus on her techniques and toning her body with hopes of helping to win the title for the school this year.

No stranger to setbacks, União da Ilha was a victim of a fire that occurred in sections of the Cidade do Samba (Samba City) headquarters, damaging their floats and costumes just weeks before Carnival in 2011. Since then, the school has been keen to rebuild and reassert itself within the ranking of the Grupo Especial with an eye on a long awaited championship.

For devoted fans of the school, it is also possible to purchase a custom made fantasia or Carnival costume that goes along with the school’s theme for this year. Those are now available on the school’s site along with contact info for the costume designer.

The school holds rehearsals in its quadra (hall) on Tuesdays at 8PM and Saturdays at 11PM. Find out more about the school including their next public technical parade practice on the street on their web site.

Estrada do Galeão, 322
Cacuia – Ilha do Governador
CEP: 21391-242
Rio de Janeiro / RJ
Tel: 21 3396-8169


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