Samba school Portela wins Rio Carnival parade after 33 years

RIO DE JANEIRO — The samba school Portela was picked Wednesday as the winner of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival parade competition, putting an end to a 33-year drought for the group known as one of the cradles of the contest.

Judges gave Portela 269.9 points out of 270, only 0.1 more than the runner-up group, Mocidade Independente.

Portela had last won the parade contest in 1984. But it still holds more titles than all of Rio's other samba schools, with 22 in total.

This year's theme for Portela was the waters of rivers, and the group included a section inspired by the 2015 collapse of the Mariana dam that sent a wall of mud through two states and ruined the Doce River. The float and costumes based on the incident were cited by the judges as one of the main reasons for Portela's victory.

Portela is home to some of Brazil's most popular samba artists. Chairman Luis Carlos Magalhaes told journalists that his samba school's victory was a positive for all in a year that the parade was marred by two accidents with floats that injured 31 people. Five still remain in the hospital, one of them in serious condition.

"This Carnival parade needed Portela's victory. We needed a good story to tell. All samba schools are now feeling well because Portela ended the drought," Magalhaes said. He dedicated the win to Marcos Falcon, his predecessor who was assassinated last year while campaigning for Rio's city council.

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