By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Unidos da Tijuca will be the last samba school to parade in Rio de Janeiro’s famed Sambódromo during the first night of Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition on February 7th. Four-time Carnival champions, the samba school won in 1936, 2010, 2012, and most recently in 2014.
For the 2014 win, the school presented the enredo (theme) Acelera, Tijuca!’ (Accelerate, Tijuca!), a parade that honored Brazilian racing legend Ayrton Senna.
One of the oldest schools in competition, Unidos da Tijuca was founded through the 1931 merger of of blocos located in and around the Morro do Borel and the greater Tijuca neighborhood.
Once designated as an official samba school, Unidos da Tijuca went on to parade for the first time in 1932. In 1936, the school won its first victory with the presentation of the theme, “Sonhos Delirantes” (Delusional Dreams).
That victory was short-lived as Tijuca could not consistently continue their success. The school faced an especially difficult period, from 1960 to 1980, falling to the lower leagues and failing to earn a spot in the Special Group again until 1980.
The school slowly began to improve and since 1998 it has maintained a place in the Special Group. Currently on a bit of a winning streak, during the previous five years, Unidos da Tijuca has won three of the last championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
Following the school’s last win in 2014, Unidos da Tijuca paid tribute to carnavalesco Clóvis Bornay in its 2015 parade, with the theme, “Um conto marcado no tempo – O olhar suíço de Clóvis Bornay” (A tale marked in time – The Swiss view of Clóvis Bornay).
Partly sponsored by the country of Switzerland, the parade’s theme depicted Clóvis Bornay’s Swiss father’s stories about the magical country of his homeland. Filled with Swiss flags, edelweiss flowers, and St. Bernard dogs, the performance earned the school fourth place in the competition.
This year, hoping to once again regain the title, Unidos da Tijuca will present the theme, “Semeando sorriso, a Tijuca festeja o solo sagrado” (Sowing smile, Tijuca celebrates the sacred ground). Organizers state that the parade will be a celebration of agriculture and nature as well as a tribute to the city of Sorriso in the state of Mato Grosso.
“Tijuca will speak of the earth, man’s being created through the earth and the earth providing for man,” Mauro Quintaes, one of a team of carnavalescos serving the school again this year, told G1. “Let’s talk about agriculture, not only for the family. We are evolving to more modern agriculture, high technology.”
Carnavalesco Hélcio Paim added; “The people of Tijuca and the general public can expect a great performance from Unidos da Tijuca. We will try to close the show with a flourish, with a Sambão, where the whole school sings. ”