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So that is why they call it Fat Tuesday

By Catholic Online
March 8th, 2011
Catholic Online (

Maybe that's why they call it "Fat Tuesday," the day of celebration before the beginning of Lent at Mardi Gras celebrations. In Brazil, the celebrated dance troupe, the Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel are strutting their stuff with pride - in spite of what is perceived as "negative body image" and a massive fire that destroyed the majority of their costumes.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Members of the troupe, to use a euphemism, "have a lot to show." Chubby men shake it in togas, and plump women swan about in little more than white bras and kickers. The troupe was among samba groups opening two days of Carnival parades at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome.

It was not all flamboyance and high spirits at the event. The Portela group lost most of their elaborate costumes and floats in a fire last month. At first, the group entered in relative silence, with its 300-strong percussion section abruptly quieting its thundering drums and crouching down in a moment of silence for its losses in the fire.

After a moment of silence for a few seconds, the drummers leaped back up with a raucous beat as Portela's thousands of members marched on to the cheers and applause of fans.

"Our community looks beautiful tonight," Portela president Nilo Figueredo said. "It is really a community of warriors."

The fire in early February raged through warehouses where Portela and two other elite samba groups were preparing for Carnival, incinerating more than 8,000 feather and glitter costumes and many of the big, meticulously decorated floats.

Portela had 3,255 outfits destroyed or severely damaged. Many wondered whether the group, which has not missed a parade in its 84-year history, would be able to put on a show at all.

It later became clear that the 2011 Carnival would be marked more than ever by the festival's quintessential ability to bring hope and happiness, even if fleeting, to those who have little. It also steeled samba group members' fierce allegiances in a city where fans are as devoted to their groups as they are to their soccer teams.

"We're ready and we're strong - no one is sitting here sad, thinking of what we lost," one member, Maria Alice Alves, clad in a metallic silver and blue outfit, said before Portela marched in.

"Our objective is always perfection," said Alessandro Meireles, a 30-year-old who has been a member of Portela's percussion section for a decade. "Even if we can't win, we're going to put on the show people expect of us."

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