The Viradouro samba school has won Rio de Janeiro's hotly contested Carnival parade competition with its tribute to Black women.

Viradouro was the last samba school to parade in the two-day contest held before Ash Wednesday. Viradouro said it wanted to honour a cobra which is considered sacred in some parts of the African country of Benin.

The group said it wanted to highlight Brazil's historic ties with Benin, from where many of the people who were taken to Brazil as slaves came from. The Unidos da Viradouro samba school emerged as the 2024 Rio de Janeiro Carnival champion, marking the 40th anniversary of the Marquês de Sapucaí Sambódromo as the parade's venue.

Snakes featured heavily in their parade, not just in the form of floats, but also in the dancers' headgear. The group also celebrated voodoo beliefs, its artistic director said. Drums featured heavily as the group paraded through the Sambadrome, the venue which hosts the annual competition.

Viradouro's performance earned them 270 points, the highest score among the 12 samba schools in the Special Group, securing their third title. Their previous win was in 2020.

Following Viradouro in the top five were Imperatriz Leopoldinense, Grande Rio, Salgueiro, Portela, and Vila Isabel. These schools will join Viradouro for the Parade of Champions, scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday 17) at the Sambódromo.