São Clemente: Broadway in Brazil
Leah Walker March 14, 2012

Here’s just one of the six samba parades I saw at Rio de Janeiro’s 2012 Carnival celebration. Opening the second night was the São Clemente Samba School.

In case you missed it, find out all about the background and work that goes into creating a samba parade for Carnival in my post {here}.

São Clemente was the only participant from Rio’s South Zone. Established in 1961, São Clemente’s school colors are yellow and black. In the Special Group, which consists of the best thirteen samba schools in Rio, they are the only ones to use black as a color. Their symbol is Sugar Loaf Mountain and are known throughout Brazil as being irreverent. For example in 1984, their theme, “Don´t Run, Don´t Kill, Don´t Die: The Devil is Free in the Streets,” referred to the street violence in Rio.

São Clemente has never won a title and placed last in 2011, a year that three schools didn’t even compete. Large-scale fires destroyed warehouses that contained costumes and floats just weeks before Carnival was to start. A year’s worth of work went up in flames, and some suspect the fires were no accident.

Looking to reverse their below-par showings, São Clemente chose for their 2012 theme, “Uma Aventura Musical na Sapucaí” which translates to “A Musical Adventure in Sapucai’.” The theme took inspiration from famous Broadway musicals such as Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, La Cage Aux Folles, and Victor/Victoria,  as well as made references to classic movie musicals like The Wizard of Oz.

Below is a pictorial of  São Clemente’s interpretation of the world’s greatest musicals with a Brazilian flair.

Rio's CarnivalThe Sambordromo before parades start

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente1 Fireworks explode into the night sky to indicate the parade is beginning.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente2Samba dancing for an hour on stilts? Yep! They did it.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente3Elaborate costumes cost a fortune and weigh a ton.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente5Inside the black boxes were piano keys.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente6These guys freaked me out a little.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente4The Flag Carrying Couple present the colors of  São Clemente

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente27Check out the cats on the float! Ahhhh, Brazil!

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente29Notice the men pushing the float.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente28

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente25Inspired by La Cage Aux Folles

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente26

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente24Another flag carrying couple emulate Beauty and the Beast.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente23La Cage Aux Folles is also known as The Birdcage.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente22Perhaps this is based on Hairspray?

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente21

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente19The colorful wheels turned as the float moved.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente20Riding on top of a float is a huge honor.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente18

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente17Judging by the costumes, I think this was based on Chicago or Cabaret.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente16Float performers hold on to a pole to maintain balance.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente15Wings with varying costumes dance in between floats.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente14

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente13

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente12I’m not sure about this one. Swan Lake? Cinderella?

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente11

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente10The Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz rides above Emerald City.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente9The cast of the Wizard of Oz

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente8

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente7

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente31An entire float was dedicated to NYC’s Broadway.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente32Notice the woman on stage to get a picture of how large the float is.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente33Not leaving much to the imagination

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente30I’ve never imagined Lady Liberty in a bikini! Only in Brazil!

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente34A wing representing Victor/Victoria

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente35I have no clue! Looks to be a space suit of some sort.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente36Any guesses here?

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente37A tribute to 2010’s Tijuca´s front commission (thanks, Eric!)

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente38The last float in the hour-long show.

Rio's Carnival: Sao Clemente33aCan you imagine this balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

What unfolded was an hour of elation, extravagance, eye-popping entertainment. I did have difficulty figuring out what some of the floats and costumes symbolized, but most were quite obvious. If São Clemente was historically one of the lowest-performing schools, I couldn’t imagine what the traditional powerhouses had in store. I didn’t think there could be anything better than what I’d just seen! There were five more schools waiting to prove me wrong.

São Clemente: 2012 Samba Song & Lyrics



Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.


    1. Ahhh, Andi, you’re too sweet. It is so difficult to put into words and simple photos the electric environment at the parades. After learning what goes into creating a parade, I can see why they are so passionate about the event. I understand why everyone was so devastated after the fires destroyed a year’s worth of work. I hope you read the preceding post, ” A Gringa’s Guide to Carnival Parades.” It’s a good (if I do say so myself) explanation of the rules, process, and development of the parades. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading about your Hong Kong trip!

    1. Emily, you’ve got to get to Rio and see Carnival. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. I imagine it was like a toddler seeing Disney World for the first time. I truly was amazed.

  1. HI! I read and enjoyed you page, carnaval is amazing and have a charm that no one else have.

    My favorite parades this year were S. Clemente, Tijuca, Salgueiro and Grande Rio :)
    Ah! It´s not alice in wonderlad, is a tribute for a 2010 Tijuca´s front comission, that samba enredo called “it´s secret!” was very famous, look is you please:


    1. I agree, Eric, Carnival is the very best. In fact, it’s one of my favorite experiences ever. Thanks for the clarification on the Alice in Wonderland. I’ll change it in my post. I’ll have some more of the parades throughout the year. I’m so behind on my writing!

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