Mangueira samba school wins Rio Carnival contest

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Mangueira, one of the most traditional and respected samba schools in Brazil, was declared winner Wednesday of the 2016 Rio Carnival parade championship.

The samba ensemble won its 18th title with a sumptuous samba parade on Monday night that involved 4,300 participants in a blur of costumes, pounding music and fantastical floats.

Fans of the samba school, which is rooted in Rio's Mangueira favela, screamed and leapt in joy as the results were read out at a ceremony in the purpose-built dancing stadium, the Sambadrome. The ensemble's principal singer, Ciganerey, burst into tears.

In an indication of how high-stakes the championship is, the results were delivered to the Sambadrome in an armored car.

The title is fiercely contested every year, with 12 finalists facing off during two all-night sessions watched at the Sambadrome by about 70,000 people and many more on live television.

Every parade is centered on a theme, ranging from religious and historical topics to celebrations of agricultural achievements, although the mass of surreal costumes and floats are often only loosely linked.

For its winning parade, Mangueira paid homage to Maria Bethania, one of the country's most loved performers of MPB Brazilian pop music.