'Congada' in Brazil mixes African roots, Christian rites

'Congada' in Brazil mixes African roots, Christian rites

Pulsing drums reverberate through the streets of this central Brazilian city as thousands of people in colorful garb march, dance and shimmy their way toward Our Lady of the Rosary church.

The procession known as the "Congada" is an annual tradition that takes place on the second Sunday of October and combines elements of Roman Catholic and African traditions, a testament to the mixing of cultures, religions and races in Latin America's largest nation. It was initially performed by groups of black slaves brought to Brazil to work on plantations during Portuguese colonial rule.

Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of the area, has historically been connected to Afro-Brazilian religious groups. And around the country, images of the Virgin Mary are associated with the African divinity "Yemanja," or Sea Mother.

During the "Congada" many groups dress and dance according to their role in specific reenactments, such as the coronation of the king of Congo. Men in turbans, white-clad children dressed as angels and dancers waving colored ribbons make their way to the church to pay homage to the virgin.

After Mass the groups return to the streets, this time to visit people in their homes — a symbolic way of fulfilling promises, or vows, made to Our Lady of the Rosary. When night falls they make their way back to the church for another Mass, held outside.


In this Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a girl prepares to place a veil on a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. According to local legend, the ritual was first performed by Black slaves in the 1800s in Brazil where the Catholic icon, Our Lady of the Rosary, is associated with the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows Leonardo Barbosa, captain of the Mozambique Sacred Heart of Mary brotherhood, during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The brotherhoods are groups comprised of African-Brazilian families who organize the annual celebration as a way to maintain their ties to African religious traditions.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, a man holds a walking cane decorated with a statue of St. George during an annual Afro-Christian dance tradition called Congada, in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. St. George is one of the most important and popular saints in Brazilian, and is associated with Ogun, an African deity of war. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, Matheus Alves, captain of the Mozambique Our Lady of the Rosary dance group, performs during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. His turban is the signature of Mozambique dance group, as they pay tribute to St. Benedict and Our Lady of the Rosary. These Catholic icons are associated with African deities Yemanja, or Sea Mother, and Ossaim, a god of nature. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, a man in costume performs during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil.  The dance and drumming ritual was initially performed by groups of black slaves brought to Brazil during colonial times to work on plantations under Portuguese rule. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, girls sing as they carry an image of Our Lady of Rosary during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The group's leader sings a verse, and members repeat, making references to Brazil's history of slavery as well as Catholic Church and African traditions, a testament to the mixing of cultures, religions and races in Latin America's largest nation. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows the captain, right, and a dancer with the Mozambique Sacred Heart of Mary dance group, during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The Congada represents an African royal court, with a king, queen, generals, captains and servants. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 8, 2016 photo, drummers perform behind images of Saint Benedict, left, and Our Lady of the Rosary, during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The Congada, an annual tradition on the second Sunday of October, combines elements from the Catholic Church and African traditions, a testament to the mixing of cultures, religions and races in Latin America's largest nation. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a girl dressed as an angel attends a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Rosario during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Some children participate in the annual celebration dressed as angels, considered a sacred symbol representing purity. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, Eduardo Camilo, a Congo general with the Black Brotherhood of the Rosary, prays with his spiritual mother during the Afro-Christian Congada celebration in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Black brotherhoods are made up of African-Brazilian families who organize the annual event to maintain their African cultural traditions. Our Lady of the Rosary is associated with the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, Catupe dancers perform with ribbons on sticks outside Our Lady of the Rosary church during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Dance groups wear costumes according to their tradition, such as Catupe, Congo and Mozambique, and exhibit dances first performed by black slaves brought to Brazil during colonial times to work on plantations under Portuguese rule. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, women carry statues of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Our Lady of the Rosary represents the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother, and St. Benedict corresponds to the African divinity Ossaim, a god of nature. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 8, 2016 photo, people hold up flowers during a Mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. After Mass people place their flowers at the statue of the virgin, who represents the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, a young dancer with a hat that reads "Faith" in Portuguese performs with others by an altar outside a home during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Families offer food to performers who dance from Our Lady of the Rosary church as a way to fulfill a promise. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 

In this Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a little girl dressed as an angel holds a heart-shaped balloon during Mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary at the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Some children participate in the annual celebration dressed as angels, considered a sacred symbol representing purity. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

 


Text from AP news story, 'Congada' in Brazil mixes African roots, Christian rites, by Eraldo Peres.

Photos by Eraldo Peres

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