Viradouro crowned champion of Rio’s Carnaval; group won with a theme about 19th century black women who used their earnings to buy the freedom of enslaved blacks
By Marques Travae
Unidos do Viradouro has been crowned the champion samba school of Rio de Janeiro’s world famous Carnival Special Group of 2020.
The samba school took to the avenue a parade that exalted the black women of Salvador, Bahia. Salvador, nicknamed “Roma Negra”, or ‘Black Rome’, is known as the blackest city and the city that most represents African culture in Brazil.
I’ve said before that although Carnaval crowds aren’t really my thing, I LOVE the inspiring stories connected to current events or important stories or people from history that the samba schools tell in their parades. The 2018 parade of the Paraíso da Tuiuti school was just one of hundreds of examples of this. This year, the Unidos do Viradouro carried on this tradition in a very inspirational manner.
The theme that was entitled “Viradouro of the washed soul” presented the story of the group Ganhadeiras de Itapuã, the fifth generation of women who washed clothes in Lagoa do Abaeté and offered various other services to buy the freedom of enslaved black women. The Lagoa do Abaetéa lagoon is located in the environmental protection area Parque Metropolitano Lagoas and Dunas do Abaeté, in the district of Itapuã.
This is the second time that the samba school from Niterói of Rio state has claimed the title in the Special Group category. It had been a long 23 years since the school’s last title, a relegation and came in second place in 2019. As such, as one can imagine, the celebration was huge when the tallies came in and members discovered they were the winners of 2020.
One of the highlights that Viradouro brought to Marquês de Sapucaí Carnaval stadium was the presentation of the front committee, which featured the athlete of the Brazilian synchronized swimming team, Anna Giulia, dressed as a mermaid, immersing herself in an aquarium with 7 thousand liters of mineral water for one minute. The water represented Lagoa do Abaeté.
Ganhadeiras de Itapuã celebrate Viradouro’s victory
Marcelo Calil Petrus Filho, president of Viradouro, revealed that the school chose the theme precisely because it represents a very Brazilian story.
Between the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, these women did “lavagem de ganho” (washed clothes) or hit the streets with baskets on their heads to selling sweets and fish to support their families.
Known for their colorful apparel, they are recognized as an important part of Salvador’s popular culture. In recent years, the musical group Ganhadeiras de Itapuã has performed dances and songs to spread knowledge about these women, an important part of Bahia and Brazilian history. In my view, these stories must always be told as history is always under threat of being whitewashed to a certain degree.
The theme showed the activities that the Ganhadeiras performed that earned them the title of “the first feminists of Brazil” because of their struggle for freedom. The group closed their parade with the slogan “Lute como uma mulher!” (fight like a woman) linking black women to the feminist struggle. Bringing this inspiring trajectory to the avenue, Viradouro composers created a samba with influences of afoxé, a Bahian rhythm, weaved into the drumming and melody.
As the competition was fierce, no one had certainty that the school would win until the scores were announced by judges. Viradouro scored 269.6 points, the same total tallied by the Grande Rio school, but they pulled out the victory in a tiebreaker criteria. The pink and green of the Beija-Flor school came in third, with a total of 269.4 points.
With information from Sputnik News and Conexão Planeta