This Page San Diego Brazil Events
The father of San Diego Carnaval/Mardi Gras, Steve "Biano" Spencer passed away on Dec. 15, 2008 due to complications of pulmonary fibrosis. He had just turned 60 in October, yet Spencer still managed to put his personal stamp on this, his last and the 17th annual San Diego Brazilian Carnaval held at 4th & B in his honor.

“This is the first year I'm flying solo,” partner Christine Portella said. “But I feel his energy in many, many ways. I can feel him guiding me. We talked many times when he was in the hospital about this year's carnaval. Each year, we would come up with themes. He told me, 'Christine, this year it should be the Carnaval of Joy.' This guy is in the hospital and all he could think of was carnaval.

“This is a tribute to him from beginning to end; from the lineup of talent to the selection of songs. We are featuring Dandara. It is her tribute to Steve. She could have performed anywhere in the world and she chose San Diego because of him.”

Dandara, who Portella describes as the “Brazilian Tina Turner,” dances, gyrates and sings with exuberance and erotic verve, in keeping with the sexy and fun nature of the carnaval.

While Portella is from Rio de Janiero, which hosts perhaps the most famous pre-Lenten celebration in the world, Dandara hails from the city of Salvador in Bahia, Brazil's musical hotbed and a key center of African culture.

“When Steve and I would meet in Brazil, I would stay in Rio – where I'm from – and he would go to Bahia,” Portella recalled. “His heart was there. Like Steve, many African-Americans have a passion for Brazil, and especially Bahia. It is the largest community of Africans outside of Africa and provided the drums and rhythms of carnaval. But I don't know anyone who doesn't like Brazil: the culture, freedom, music and joy. People go there and don't want to leave.”

In fact, Portella said, San Diegans experience a similar phenomenon.

“People who come to our carnaval always want to come back the next year,” she said. “Come, if anything, knowing that you're going to fall in love. I bump into people who came to our carnavals and later visited Brazil. I get e-mails, 'Christine, I've moved to Brazil.' ”

Portella attributes part of the appeal to the zeal for life.

“People here are saying, 'Oh my god, it's a recession, it's so hard.' In Brazil, almost 80 percent of the population is poor. They celebrate. A birthday, promotion, if it's sunny out – just that we are on the planet is reason to celebrate.”
'We bring Brazil to you' San Diego Carnaval 2009 By Beth Wood on

Dear Carnavalescos,

"For those of you that knew him, how fortunate we all were! I miss you my friend, buddy, mentor and business partner in Brazilian Productions. We were business partners for 17 years!! How grateful am I... You shared with me that our theme for this year's Carnival should be "Carnaval de Alegria"(Carnival of Happiness). That said, I shall not cry anymore, and focus on keeping our dream alive!!" Love Chris
History of San Diego Brazilian Productions
Our History
Steve Spencer

–-- A Big Brazilian Heart

Steve Spencer lived life following his muse. His clarity of vision is something everyone can envy. He saw the future in the African spirit expressed through the Brazilian Carnaval and brought it to heights never before reached in his home town of San Click Here to visit Djambi Home PageDiego where it is likely to continue to grow and prosper each year in synch with the Brazilian and Mardi Gras pre-Lenten celebrations which are among the greatest ever. He was a cultural warrior who made his mark and will be remembered by many for his heart and others for bringing the great annual celebration of life to life in his beloved City of  San Diego. was launched as a website on April 1st, 1996 and it was not long afterwards that Steve made contact. We never met but he was always quick to invite me to his San Diego Carnaval as we continued to share our enthusiasm in support of the always struggling community based cultural arts. He knew personally most of the Brazilian artists in California and was a tireless promoter of the music and underlying approach to life it communicates.  He saw himself as a torch bearer so we can all feel we honor his work and memory when we get out of our everyday mask and connect with a Left Coast Global Culture that is at its best when showing the world  the multicultural Carnaval joy of living life to the fullest in the moment. 

Steve will be missed in the Brazilian community not only in California, but around the world. Steve’s legacy of spreading Brazilian cheer covers the continents of Africa and all the Americas and then some. His close friend Christine said it best: “He blended in where ever he went”. He was truly a special human being. One of his favorite trips was the time he was as a body guard for Mr. M. in Brazil where he got to meet Brazilian celebrities such as Xuxa and many others where he made friends from the simple to the famous.

---Belly Up Tavern

The Belly Up Tavern hosted a Brazilian-themed pre-Carnaval party in memory of Steve "Biano" Spencer,  The event  featured samba lessons, carnaval videos and live music by Jangada;  143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach; (858) 481-8140.


Click through for a daily journal that Steve Baiano  kept of his day to day experiences....
Brazilian Productions aka Carnaval Mardi Gras Productions, producers of San Diego Brazil Carnaval Mardi Gras, has been actively producing and promoting Brazilian Carnaval, Mardi Gras Events and Shows  since 1988. We have produced and promoted shows with such Brazilian artists as OLODUM, Moraes Moreira, Renni Flores, from OBA OBA, Daniela Mercury, Ed Motta, Djambi, Marisa Monte, Ivan Lin, RACIONAIS MCs and Gilberto Gil.  We also coordinate and organize the Carnaval Mardi Gras Parades for San Diego Street Scene, the largest food and music festival on the West Coast.

San Diego Brazil Carnaval is one of the largest most authentic Carnaval Events in California.  It brings together San Diego’s Brazilian community and the rest of San Diego to celebrate the most important party of the year.    Through out the years, San Diego Carnaval Mardi Gras has served as a vehicle to bring people together and build a cultural bridge between Brazil and the United States.

Obituary: Steve Spencer; fan of Brazil brought Carnaval to San Diego

All who know Steve were immediately touched by his outgoing, warm and very friendly personality.   He will be greatly missed by all know knew him.  I am deeply sadden to lose a friend such as Steve.   He was truly a ray of sunshine.  Rest In Peace, Steve. I'm sure you're dancing the Samba up in the sky!  

--- Leesa


By Blanca Gonzalez / STAFF WRITER

2:00 a.m. December 29, 2008

Steve Spencer may not have been Brazilian by birth, but in San Diego, his name was synonymous with Carnaval, Brazil's renowned festival marking the beginning of Lent.

The countless revelers who have enjoyed San Diego's annual Brazilian Carnaval have Mr. Spencer to thank for the chance to experience samba and other Brazilian rhythms.

Mr. Spencer credited the 1959 foreign film “Black Orpheus” with piquing his interest in Brazil. After a visit to the country several years later, he became even more enamored with the music and culture and made it his mission to bring the flavor of Brazil to San Diego.

Mr. Spencer started Brazilian Promotions in the late 1980s, and the organization evolved to promote and produce programs featuring a variety of musical genres including Latin, African, reggae, Cajun and blues.

Mr. Spencer died of pulmonary fibrosis Dec. 14 at Sharp Hospital in San Diego. He was 60.

Mr. Spencer often said that seeing “Black Orpheus” changed his life, enthralling him with the colorful sights and music of Brazil. A visit to Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval in 1987 inspired him to bring the experience to San Diego, he wrote in an entry on his Web site.

“It became my passion to bring some of that happiness, joy, and celebration of life to San Diego. In 1993, we promoted our first Carnaval in San Diego and have worked over the years to make San Diego's Carnaval the best Carnaval outside Brazil,” he wrote.

Mr. Spencer partnered with Christine Portella and the two brought several Brazilian artists to San Diego. They worked as entertainment coordinators for special events including San Diego Street Scene, Blue Sky Productions and Calle Diez Latin Music Festival.

“He had such a positive energy and was so passionate about Brazilian culture and music,” said Street Scene founder Rob Hagey.

Hagey said Mr. Spencer and Portella understood his vision for Street Scene when they started working with him in the mid-1990s. “Their passion and vision changed the whole vibe. We incorporated mariachis, belly dancers, Brazilian music . . . They were very influential in bringing artists like Olodum, Gilberto Gil and Renni Flores,” Hagey said.

Mr. Spencer was born Oct. 2, 1948, in San Diego to Betty Bonita Davis and Barney Spencer. He graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1966 and attended San Diego State University.

Longtime friend Victor Crawford has known Mr. Spencer since the two were growing up in southeastern San Diego. “He was highly intelligent. I taught him to play chess one summer, but when I came back from college the next year I couldn't beat him. He went way beyond me. He played in national tournaments,” Crawford said.

Mr. Spencer worked for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for nearly 30 years before retiring a few months ago because of illness.

Friend and colleague Gaspar Oliveira used to be Mr. Spencer's supervisor.

“Steve was a champion of civil rights. He was an outstanding employee, a very dedicated worker,” Oliveira said.

Mr. Spencer's interests included researching his genealogy and playing in a Brazilian band. In addition to Brazil, his travels took him to Kenya, Zanzibar, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

Mr. Spencer is survived by a sister, Susan Christine Spencer of Scripps Ranch; two nephews, a grandnephew and longtime companion Frieda Brown of Kenya.

Services were held Dec. 22 at St. John Catholic Church in Lemon Grove.


"DANDÁRA put on a show for the ages with her energia Baiana" Steve Baiano  ---San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2003
Her deep, spicy singing voice and her Vibrant dance and performance style makes her a sensation on stage. Chris San Diego Carnaval 2009
Brazilian Promotions aka BRAZILCARNIVAL.COM was created to promote Brazilian Culture & Events. Our goal is to build a cultural bridge through art, music and dance to bring people together and celebrate life.

Steve Spencer 2006: "I was born and raised in San Diego. My uncle San Diego High School Football legend, Charles Davis, married into the Ramsey Family that owned the Creole Palace back in the day. It was the premiere Black Club in San Diego from the 30's to the 50's featuring the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Herb Jeffries, Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandridge.

As a result of my first trip to Brazil in 1987, I started Brazilian Promotions to promote Brazilian Events and cultural activities. Over the years Brazilian Promotions has evolved and we now promote and produce variety of musical genres: Latin, African, Reggae, WorldBeat, Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop, Flamenco, Cajun, Zydeco, Carnaval and Mardi Gras Events. Our goal is to build a cultural bridge through music and dance to bring people together and celebrate life. For updates here


My years on this planet have been a journey in search of self. I have been on a quest to embrace the cultures, history and people of the African Diaspora. My travels have taken me to Kenya, Brazil, Zanzibar, Martinique, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, St. Lucia and Dominca...Below is my diary based on my observations and experiences when I went to Brazil for the 1st time...I hope you enjoy. It was published last year in BRAZZIL Magazine
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil...1987

I have often been asked how I got interesed in Brazil. It started when saw "Black Orpheus", the 1959 Oscar winning film. I was enthralled by the story, music, and colors, of this film classic. Nine years later, I was in Brazil. I am going to share with you notes from my diary when I first went to Bahia, Brazil in 1987. I visited the Magical city of Salvador, Bahia aka "Roma Negra" / Black Rome. After reading this, you may understand how that first experience had such an impact on me. Get yourself a nice cup of cafezinha, relax and enjoy...

In 1986, I befriended a Baiano (A person from Bahia, Brazil) name Geraldo. He was one of the first Afro-Brazilian I met. He was without a place to stay, so I offered him my house and also taught him English. We became great friends. A year later he arranged for me to stay with his family in Bahia
  La Jolla Marriott:  "Rio Comes to La Jolla" with Escola de Samba Sol e Mar
"Lambada Tropical" Portuguese Hall:   with Bakari & Leticia
Brazil by the Bay  
"Baile de Revillion" Princess Resort:  Lula & Afro-Brazil
Afro-Brazilian dance workshop Cafe Sevilla:   Club Brazil with Betho Filho
Brazil by the Bay  
San Diego Brazil Carnaval
Since 1993, Brazilian Promotions has produced the San Diego Brazil Carnaval. In additon to Carnaval, my partner Christine Portella "Carioca de Gema" and I have produced and promoted shows with such Brazilian artists as Jorge Benjor, Gilberto Gil, Djambi, Marisa Monte, Daniela Mercury, Ivan Lins, Leila Pineiro, Ed Motta, Marcelo D2, O Rappa, Planet Hemp, Tribo de Jah, OLODUM, Moraes Moreira and Renni Flores from OBA OBA. As an Entertainment Coordinator our clients include:

* San Diego Street Scene
* The Boulé Convention
* Super Bowl 1998
* Blue Sky Productions
* Calle Diez Latin Music Festival
* American Cancer Society
* California Center for the Arts Escondido
* East County Performing Arts Center El Cajon
* Fashion Careers of California (Golden Hangers)
* San Diego Children's Museum
* Athletes for Education

* Café Sevilla
* 4th & B
La Jolla Marriott with Sol e Mar

 Bakari & Leticia Brazil by the Bay Princess Resort Rio Thing &  Sol e Mar Afro-Brazilian dance workshop Club Brazil at Brazil by the Bay Princess Hotel ... Katia Moraes  Orixa BÁ BÁ Started Sevilla CLUB Brazil with Josias dos Santos Sonia Santos from "Oba Oba" at Mi Cabana Brazil by the Bay U. S. Grant Lula & Afro-Brazil  Brazil Carnaval '93 Hilton Moraes Moreira, Maria, Sol e Mar, Josias dos Santos "Bahia Carnaval on Tour" Olodum, Sol e Mar, Teye Sa

"San Diego Carnaval Mardi Gras '94" World Beat Ctr Meia Noite, Katia Moraes, Renni Flores
"World Cup Celebration" Chabasco's Katia Moraes
Brazil by the Bay  Meia Noite, Katie Moraes, Renni Flores
Festa da BAHIA Chubascos Renni Flores, Betho Filho, Meia Noite, Sol e Mar, Katia Moraes, Tatta Spalls
San Diego Brazil Carnaval '95 U.S. Grant Hotel:  Renni Flores, Katia Moraes, Luiza Marques & Brazil Tropical, Marcos Santos, Sol e Mar, Cheramoya Samba School
San Diego Brazil Carnaval '96 U.S. Grant Hotel: Sambala, Josias dos Santos & Sol E Mar, Renni Flores, Claudinho, Iraguacu, Sambamania dancers, Sambala, Lula & Afro-Brazil,  Luiza Marques & Brazil Tropical
San Diego Street Scene '96 Gaslamp Quarter:  Renni Flores, Luiza Marques and Brazil Tropical, Luizinho & Claudinho, Sol E Mar, Sambala, Super Sonic Samba School, Sambamania Dancers
San Diego Brazil Carnaval '97 U.S. Grant Hotel Sambala, Mila, Sol e  Mar, Luiza Marques and Brazil Tropical, Katia Moraes Swing Brazil
San Diego Street Scene '97 Gaslamp Quarter:  Olodum, Renni Flores, M.I.L.A. Luizinho, Claudinho,  Sol E Mar, Sambala, Super Sonic Samba School, Sambamania Dancers, Aluadomar Dancers, Swing Brazil
San Diego Brazil Carnaval '98 U.S. Grant Hotel: Flavio, Luiza Marques, Renni Flores,  Sambamania Dancers,  Swing Brazil, Luizinho, Josias dos Santos & Sambrasil
San Diego Brazil Carnaval '99 U.S. Grant Hotel: Sol E Mar SensaSamba, Sambamania, George Carioca, Quilombo do San Diego Capoeira
San Diego Street Scene '99 Gaslamp Quarter:  Gilberto Gil, Olodum, Renni Flores, Sol E Mar,  Super Sonic Samba School, Sambamania Dancers,Capoeira Quilombo, Capoeira Mandinga
San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2000 Gaslamp Quarter:  Daniela Mercury, Sol E Mar,  Super Sonic Samba School, Sambamania Dancers,Capoeira Quilombo, Capoeira Mandinga
San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2001  
Mari Escondido Center for Performing Artsr:  Marisa MonteClick on Marisa Monte image to visit the California Center for the Arts Escondido Website
San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2002  
San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2003  

San Diego Brazil Events
 Gaslamp Mardi Gras Parade on

"San Diego Brazil Carnaval has developed the reputation as being one of the largest and most authentic Carnaval celebrations outside Brazil.   It is an all-consuming party of fun, feathers, fantasy and outrageous costumes. This Gala Event signals the start of San Diego's Carnaval Mardi Gras Celebration that culminates with the Gaslamp Mardi Gras Parade on Fat Tuesday 
This is a very good link directory of San Diego Annual Events:

wiki/San_Diego_Events,_Festivals,_and_Parades was founded by Steve Spencer who wrote there that: "Since 1993, Brazilian Promotions has been a leading resource for Brazilian carnival information, history, and event dates."

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The State of Dance in San Diego
Get Up. Fall Down. Repeat
 La Jolla Music Society presents choreographer
Elizabeth Streb's
 Streb Vs. Gravity
, a high-energy dance troupe that blends gymnastics, dance, acrobatics and Hollywood stunt work in the dance piece "Get Up. Fall Down. Repeat." Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave., San Diego; $25-$65; (858) 459-3728.