Posted by: Gary Guertin | February 16, 2013

14. Caribbean – Brazil – Rio de Janeiro 2 of 2

Hi All,

The Sambodromo in all it’s glory from last year:


OK, so Isabel and all the “Susy” defenders, can relax and enjoy the pictures, I have to first explain why Susy didn’t go with me to the Sambodromo.  I was not going to go because she said earlier that she just couldn’t, with her back, sit and stand for hours on a concrete bench.  Then she started hounding me to go because she didn’t want me to miss this great spectacular.  In the end I gave in because she had had such a good time at the Sunday night boat party and there was going to be another one Monday night which she could attend with friends.  So, on Monday afternoon I was lucky to get a ticket in section 5 which is on the right above, in the middle of the line of march, and transportation to and from the ship.

First let’s look at the Sambodromo.  Before 1984, when Susy and I last attended Carnival in Rio, each year the city would build bleachers along one of the wide boulevards for the parade of the Samba Schools.  Carnival became so important and costly to rebuild the bleachers each year that they decided to build a permanent facility, hence the Sambodromo which opened in 1984.  It has grown over the years to it’s present capacity of 70 plus thousand spectators.  Samba schools are classed into groups, with the Special group (12 schools, 6 marching Sunday, Feb. 10, and six marching Monday, Feb. 11) being the best and Serie A group being next. Each year each Samba school decides on a theme, writes a Samba, makes costumes, and floats to support the theme, and competes to become the Champion of the Samba schools.  They each have 82 minutes to parade before the judges, and they can have up to 8 floats.  The schools are judged in 10 areas, each area has four judges. The champion and runners up are announced on Ash Wednesday, and the next Saturday, this year Feb. 16, there is a victory parade of the top six schools.  There is a loser each year.  The bottom school is demoted to the Serie A group and the Champion of that group is promoted to the Special Group the next year (2014).  Of coarse, like soccer teams, every Brazilian has their favorite Samba school, and the competition is fierce, but a lot more friendly than soccer fans.

Needless to say I took over 400 photos that evening.  I left the ship area at 8 PM and stayed till 3 AM.  I got to see four of the six schools marching that night.  To see the other two I would have had to stay until 6 or 7 AM.  I’m just going to pick out 5 photos for each Samba School to show you.  The first photo above I took from a magazine and gives you a good idea of what you are seeing as each school passes.  There are 4 or 5 groups of costumed dancers, then a float, then 4 or 5 more groups of costumed dancers.  The schools Samba (their song for the theme) is blaring over the load speakers, and everyone in the grand stands is singing the words, which are published in the programs that are handed out.  The only rest you have all night is the short interval between each school.  By the way, looking at the photo above you can see a digital clock on the left which says 1:02.  That means that school has been marching for one hour and 2 minutes (62 minutes) and has 20 minutes left to get off the floor or they will be penalized.

O.K. let’s go to the greatest Carnival of all.  First as we get into our seats we look down the Sambodromo in the direction of where the Samba Schools enter:


and then down toward the other end where they exit.


Not a bad location, just about right in the middle as you can see.  Here I am next to a couple who came in our van (there were 8 of us all seated in the area).


As we go through the evening, please take some time and enlarge the photos, especially the floats, and look at the details and costumes of the many dancers who are on the floats.  If you have trouble enlarging the photos just send me an email and I’ll try and help you.

The show is about to begin and as each school forms at the entrance, a loud speaker announces the school, and its theme.  The school’s Samba begins, and fireworks light the sky above the entrance.  The stadium clocks starts and the school begins it’s march.  Everyone stands and cheers (if you sit you can’t see anything) and for the next 82 minutes you are dazzled by the costumes, the floats, the music, and most of all the spirit of celebration by everyone.  The line of march is fairly standard: first blocks of dancers, each with their unique costumes, then a float, repeated over and over till about half way, when a block of drummers (in the hundreds) appears. The whole school stops once or twice (they stopped right in front of us which was halfway), the music goes silent for a minute or two, and then drummers lead off with a drum (drums) solo.  After the short solo the music begins (a minute or two) and off the whole school goes again. The drummers are followed by a drum van with the name of the school on its side.  Remember that the costumes, music, and floats are flowing a story (the theme) as it marches by.

The first school was “Sao Clemente”.  There theme was “Happy Ending” or “Prime Time”.  To quote the school’s objective: “A soap opera that will tell the story of several successful soap operas and with an ending that will certainly play with the public’s emotion”.  The “drum van for Sao Clemente:


A look down toward the entrance with the blocks of dancers, each block with distinct costumes and a float and giant balloon.


A close look at the costume of one of the dancer blocks:


and a look at the beautiful floats, here’s two:



Next one of my favorites, “Mangueira”.  There theme is “Samba Train” or “Cuiaba” a Paradise in the Center of America”.  The drum van of “Mangueira” as the pink and green march by:


a long view at their line:


One of the beautiful floats:


The beautiful dancers:


A block of dancers up close:


As we moved to Tuesday, Feb. 12th, a little after 12 AM the third school, “Beija-Flor” took the line of march.  There theme was “Companion or “Faithful Friend – From the Sunrise Horse to the Mangalarga Marchador”.  Beija-Flor is vary popular and has been Champion many times in the last few years.  The drum van:


A float:


another beautiful float:


Block dancers up close:


And the ever present beautiful individual dancers who are placed throughout the schools;


Finally the last school I saw was “Grande Rio”.  Their theme was “God Gave Us” or “I love Rio and I’m off to fight, Black Gold will not be disputed”.  This theme is political because the “Black Gold” is oil and Rio state has most of Brazilian’s oil reserves (mostly off shore).  The protest is against the rest of Brazil having any control over the reserves.  The drum van of Grande Rio:


This float is the replica of an oil rig:


Another beautiful float:


A dancer block up close dressed as “engines”:


And one of our lovely dancers near the end:


To finish the evening I want you know I don’t look to bad as a 75 year old at 3 AM in the morning.


That’s a night in the Sambodromo.  It was to me the greatest show I have seen (since the last time in 1976).  Susy and I are going to get a DVD of the parade of Samba Schools, so next time we see you at our home we can really show you the “Carnival”.

I am way behind in our ports as we have visited Buzios and Salvador.  Hope to catch up soon.

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)



  1. Dear Gary:
    Muchas gracias por tus hermosas fotos y los relatos tan interesantes. La verdad es que nos hacés vivir cada momento y lugar por donde andan.
    Les mando muchos besos y QUE SUERTE QUE FUISTE AL SAMBÓDROMO!!!!!!!
    Muchos besos para los dos

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