Community-building through Samba

In openDemocracy, Arthur Ituassu looks at Samba.


São Gonçalo, where Porto da Pedra is based, is a community of 950,000 people in Rio. With a literacy rate of 95% and 199 health centres, 57 of which are public, São Gonçalo has much to offer. It has a local economy of $2.5 billion, and the city hall manages costs of $125 million a year and (in typically Brazilian fashion) almost 80% of this is spent on its employee and administrative costs alone.

Much of São Gonçalo’s wealth is down to Uberlan Jorge de Oliveira, and he is proud of its huge achievements: “We have doctors trained in nine different medical professions; we have a circus school for kids; we distribute food to at least 200 families; we have social workers; we are opening a dentist surgery for the community. I take care of at least 1,500 people.” As he speaks I notice a big picture of a tiger behind his desk, the animal is the trademark of Porto da Pedra. “But that is my wife’s job”, he concludes.

One of Uberlan Jorge de Oliveira’s most notable investments – more than $1.5 million – is on a very special project that happens just once a year: Porto da Pedra’s ninety-minute presentation at the top stage of Rio’s Carnival parade, the sambódromo.