SAO PAULO – Sao Paulo’s Carnival opened its doors to the world Saturday and worshipped at the feet of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of the country who, as a samba number recalls, has filled “the hearts of the Brazilian people with love and faith” for 300 years.
First on the scene was the Vila Maria United samba school, which dedicated its parade to the “Queen of Brazil,” the principal icon of Brazil’s religious faith and whose statue, according to legend, was found by a group of fishermen three centuries ago in waters of the Paraiba do Sul River.
The initial presentation festooned with gold and blue the Anhembi Sambadrome, designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer, while from the stands the faithful expressed their devotion to the Black Virgin.
The fortunate fishermen were followed by a float with an enormous ceramic figure of Our Lady of Aparecida, which in turn gave way to the parade from Bahia, made up as usual of women wearing the traditional garb of that state with the addition of Our Lady’s rich blue mantle.
Then came the angels, messengers of peace, and the “people,” all brimming with the joy of Carnival, while thousands of spectators sang at the top of their voices: “Oh, Our Lady! Oh, Our Lady! Show us the splendor of your mantle of blue embroidered with gold.”
In the country with the largest number of Catholics in the world, the faith was present since nightfall when the Tom Maior samba school opened the spectacle with a tribute to singer Elba Ramalho, one of the leading icons of Brazilian music in the 1980s and an artist of Bahia rhythms.
The radiant songstress represented the folklore of northeast Brazil, its rhythms, traditions and bright colors, which contrasted with the brown hues of other costumes that symbolized the drought currently punishing the interior of that region.
Ramalho’s group gave their all from beginning to end: singing with spirit, sweating, pushing the enormous floats and dancing without stopping.
Ten minutes after the first parade, the Happy Youth group came on with a show representing the 50 years of the samba school’s history, marked by “struggle,” “strength” and “union.”
The House of the Samba reviewed its history and that of humanity itself, beginning with ancient Rome, represented by a huge float in shades of gold.
Then Mother Africa burst onto the samba route led by the Academics of Tatuape, runner up of the Sao Paulo Carnival, which acted out an excursion through Zimbabwe, “land of gold.”
Then back to the Americas with Hawks of the Faithful, specifically to Sao Paulo, “city of dreams, opportunity and hope.”
The Academics of Tucuruvi, for their part, converted the Sambadrome into a gallery of street artists, while Golden Eagle put the finishing touch on the first night of Sao Paulo parades by paying homage to man’s best friend, the dog.
The elite samba schools of Sao Paulo began parading Friday night and continued into Saturday, while a kind of “second division” was doing the same in Rio de Janeiro. In the Sunday to Monday parades the order will be inverted, with samba shows by Rio’s elite nd Sao Paulo’s second division.