By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter

Samba beauties from Unidos de Vila Isabel, photo by Creative Commons/Flickr Licence
Samba beauties from Unidos de Vila Isabel, photo by Creative Commons License.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Preparation activities have come to a partial stop for season’s holidays, however Carnival continues to be the center of thoughts for many Cariocas, specially those who vigorously support, often resembling the behavior of true soccer fans, one of Rio’s twelve major league schools.

Being two quintessential Brazilian products, Samba and Futebol (soccer) cross-over in many ways. Out of one of those encounters comes Unidos de Vila Isabel, the gremio (school) from the Zona Norte (North zone of Rio) that, in 1946, set its foundations on a neighborhood soccer team.

Inevitable associations with the Maracanã may come to mind while entering the Sambodrome during the carnival contest nights. Thousands of roaring fans sit on the bleachers, all dressed alike and furiously singing and dancing along with their school-team.

In fact, just as it happens for soccer teams, most Carioca’s love and support one of the city’s samba schools and when carnival parties get closer, people heat up and start hoping for their gremio to be the best of all in the Sambodrome.

Evandro Pereira, a taxi driver in Rio explains “When Carnival competitions start, I dress up my four kids in Vila Isabel t-shirts, and we all go together the Sambodrome, to support our beloved school”. Another Carioca, shop keeper Ricardo Estevez, cheerfully states “Botafogo and Mangueira are in command of my heart, right after my wife, though”.

Samba composer and singer Noel Rosa, photo by
Samba composer and singer Noel Rosa, photo by Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The GRES Unidos de Vila Isabel is certainly one of Rio de Janeiro’s most traditional samba schools. Its facility is right in the middle of the homonym neighborhood, which is considered to be one of the city’s cradles of samba, probably the most important one in town.  During the beginning of the 1900’s all the main samba composers and singers used to get together in Vila Isabel and play their nights off in the neighborhood bars.

Unidos de Vila Isabel decided to dedicate the 2010 parade to the greatest of all of those Authors: Noel Rosa, who was born in Rio de janeiro, in 1910. At the age of twenty, in 1930, he launched one of the most popular samba pieces ever: “Com que Roupa”, a song that practically everybody knows in Brazil.

The samba enredo (the parade’s soundtrack), called: “Noel: a presença do Poeta da Vila” (Noel: the ghost of the “Poet of the Vila”), has been composed by some great musicians, amongst whom is famous samba singer, Martinho da Vila. The song is a journey through stories and anecdotes related to the life of the great Carioca artist.

The last time Unidos de Vila Isabel won the samba school championship was in 2006, with a parade inspired by the theme: “Soy loco por ti America” (I’m crazy about you Latin America). Some attribute Vila Isabel win that year to a very sizable sponsorship by Venezuela’s President Chavez, who through the state-owned oil giant PSDVA, financed the school’s show with US$1 million.


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