Traditionally, Carnival ends on Ash Wednesday when most Brazilians get back to real life. However, celebrations have only just begun for members of Portela, crowned Rio’s winning samba school in 2017. Their 22nd title – the most ever – comes after a 33-year hiatus.
In 2017, the school chose as the theme of its parade one of its most illustrious names, singer Paulinho da Viola. The title of Portela’s 2017 samba was a verse of one of his songs. It translates as, “A river pass through my life and took my heart with it.”
Portela made references to the Samarco dam collapse – the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.
As multiple accidents marked the Rio samba school parades, only a group of few emerged as favorites. Among them, Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel and Mangueira, 2016’s champion.
On March 4, the six best-ranked schools will go back to the Sambódromo for the Winners’ Parade. You can buy tickets here, starting at $95.
History of Portela
Portela, a.k.a. “The Majesty of Samba,” was born in 1923. Alongside Mangueira and Deixa Falar, it is one of the founders of Rio’s Carnival. In fact, Portela started as a street bloco called Conjunto Oswaldo Cruz. Wearing the blue and white colors, Portela is symbolized by a white eagle.
Over the years, the school has one 22 titles (including 2017), more than any other. In 2001, the school received the Order of Cultural Merit, by the city of Rio de Janeiro.
In the past decades, however, Portela struggled to adapt to the new trends of Rio’s carnival. The school has always praised its history and resisted modernity. That has changed when the school named Paulo Barros as its chief designer. Barros is known for his extravagant style. The change worked, as in recent years the school has climbed towards the top.
In September 2016, Portela’s vice-president Marcos Vieira was gunned down in the city’s North Zone. He had previously been charged with murder, although cleared, as well as arrested for links to gangs and militia in the area.
Take a look at Portela’s 2017 parade that earned the school its record-setting title as Rio’s winning samba school.