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Carnaval Flags (Brazil)

Last modified: 2003-03-01 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: brazil | south america | rio de janeiro | carnaval |
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I draw attention to the Carnaval in Rio, where can be seen in all their splendour the samba schools' flags, usually gyronny of many. Other cities in Brazil (and even abroad) also follow this tradition.
António Martins, 11 July 1999

Unfortunately, all these flags include symbols in the center of their gyronny fields and are constantly in movement, so it's pretty impossible to get their composition straight only from TV.
Jorge Candeias, 3 March 2001

All the samba schools' names begin with GRES, which stands for Grêmio Recreativo Escola da Samba (Recreational Society and Samba School). The samba schools are the organizations that put on the big parades. By tradition, each school has a young woman called a porta-bandeira or flag-carrier carrying its flag in the parade. As António points out, the flags are generally gyronny in the colors of the school, an obvious Portuguese influence, I assume. The source of information on the clubs is an excellent book by Alma Guillermo-Prieto entitled Samba.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

I don't know whather the gyronny design of these flags was influenced by Portuguese civic vexillology. Current Portuguese municipal flags have octo-gyronny backgrounds when the seat of the municipality has the status of a city, but it should be noted that untill the 1930s only Lisbon had a gyronny flag, providing one of the bases for the current Portuguese civic vexillology laws. If these samba school flags are older than the 1930s, then the evidence is shallow. I'd say that most of these flags influenced each other. The older might have been influenced by Portugese city flags, but then again, maybe not.
António Martins, 4 March 2001

I believe the oldest of the samba schools date to the late 1920s/early 1930s. Most of them seem to have been formed in the 1940s-50s. I expect that António's hypothesis that they influenced each other is correct, but it seems to me that somewhere in the genealogy of the earliest ones is a saudade (nostalgia) tinged memory of Lisbon.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

Apparently a new flag is made for each school for each carnival. The obverse, which the images below show, seems to stay the same, with the school emblem on the center, but the reverse bears a device reflecting the theme of that year's parade. This would account for variations in the details of these flags, so these should be taken as general patterns.
Joseph McMillan, 14 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Beija Flor

[Beija Flor]
by Joseph McMillan

A nouveau school (1950s, I believe) and seen by the more traditional favelas as a bit of an upstart, but an enormously well-financed and successful one. A beija-flor (literally flower-kisser) is a hummingbird, so the badge on the center of the blue and white flag shows flowers and two little beija-flores.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Caprichosos de Pilares

[Caprichoses de Pilares]
by Joseph McMillan

G.R.E.S. Imperatriz Leopoldinense

[Imperatriz Leopoldinense]
by Joseph McMillan

Named for Empress Leopoldina (wife of Emperor Dom Pedro I). This is the only one I've found that is not gyronny of some number.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

Source: School website.
Joseph McMillan, 5 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Império Serrano

[Império Serrano]
by Joseph McMillan

The name means "Mountain Empire." Another very old-line school.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Mangueira

by Joseph McMillan

An old line school dating back to the 1930s and one of the most successful in winning the samba competitions. Colors pink and green. Mangueira is one of the oldest favelas (slums) in Rio; the name refers to it being the first stop on a suburban rail line after leaving the city proper.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel

[Mocidade Independente]
by Joseph McMillan

The name means "Independent Youth of Father Miguel."
Joseph McMillan,4 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Portela

by Joseph McMillan

The flag of the old-line Rio samba school, GRES Portela. The device on the center is the school's mascot, an eagle.
Joseph McMillan, 14 March 2001

G.R.E.S. Acadêmicos de Salgueiro

by Joseph McMillan

An old school--actually an amalgamation of several old schools--known for the innovation, in the 1960s, of first hiring a professional parade designer.
Joseph McMillan, 4 March 2001