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Parties in Bahia
It is affectionately said that "when Bahians are not actually participating in a festival they are rehearsing for one." And in a way it's true. The people of Bahia, a fusion of Africans, Native Americans and Europeans, are carefree and upbeat, always looking for a good time. Although most of the folk celebrations in Bahia take place during the summer months, from December to March, there are festivities throughout the year, even in June when the São João festivities are commemorated. These cultural manifestations, from a variety of origins, are a delight for both locals and tourists with open-air shows or nightclub presentations of capoeira-an Afro-Brazilian martial art practiced to music, a warrior's dance; maculelê-a sword dance imitating actual battles; and samba-de-roda-the most traditional style of samba danced in a circle. The faith of the Bahian people is manifested in a wide variety of events. Some are in honor of Candomblé orixás, the deities of an animist religion with origins in West Africa. When the drums sound at the terreiros, or places of worship, the initiates, literally the children of the saints, incorporate the holy spirits as they dance. Others are of Catholic origin, when believers, after their religious duties are fulfilled, enjoy the profane part of the festival at special stands serving beverages and a variety of local dishes, to the rhythm of samba-de-roda. Other types of music are also popular such Bahia's own Axé Music, or Pagode. During summer, singers from the many Carnival groups put on almost daily shows or "rehearsals," as they are locally known, in private clubs or public areas throughout the city. The energy of all these festivities impregnates Salvador from morning to night.
The year begins midsummer with the Bom Jesus dos Navegantes festival on January 1, literally the Good Jesus of the Mariners festival, during which hundreds of vessels of all types sail through All Saints' Bay carrying the image of Good Jesus from Conceição da Praia church to the Chapel at Boa Viagem, a beautiful procession of faith. From then on there is a series of festivals, one of the most noteworthy of which is the Procession of Senhor do Bonfim when nearly 800,000 people dressed in white accompany traditional "Baianas" wearing typical multi-layered white-lace petticoats and turbans. The multitudes parade through the Lower City from Conceição da Praia to Bonfim church, where the Bahian women bless those present by showering them with lavender water and perform the traditional "washing of the steps", in a ritual of faith and hope. It is said that Senhor do Bonfim, literally Lord of the Good End, who is associated with the father of all the orixás-Oxalá, protects only those who go on foot, hence the local expression, "those with faith walk all the way."

Another highlight of the summer season, which attracts the faithful from all over Brazil, is the Yemanjá Festival. On the second of February the initiates of Candomblé pay homage to the Goddess of the Sea, who is represented symbolically by a mermaid. The festival takes place in the neighborhood of Rio Vermelho, an impressive manifestation of faith in the power of the "Mother of the Waters". The faithful leave offerings and in return ask for a blessing. Alongside the religiously inclined are revelers who take advantage of the festivities at street stalls where the line between the sacred and the profane gets more tenuous as the days goes on.

Yet the high point of all of the festivals in Bahia is without a doubt Carnival, a truly unbelievable outpouring of emotion, a week-long delirium of the masses that ends on the morning of Ash Wednesday. The largest festival in the world in terms of the number of participants takes over the city. Revelers, some wearing costumes or the outfits of their favorite Carnival groups, others simply enjoying the music of the many independent bands, invade the various Carnival routes. The two most frenzied are between Campo Grande and Castro Alves Plaza, and from Barra to Ondina along the coast road, while old-style Carnival reigns in the Pelourinho and on Rua Chile, in and around the old city.

Bands in the Pelourinho do not use amplifiers, relying instead on brass and percussion instruments. Afro-Carnival Associations and Afoxés, groups that jealously maintain Bahia's strong African traditions, as well as improvised gatherings of costumed revelers, also parade through the old city. On the two main routes, large Carnival groups take to the avenues where brightly dressed throngs of people frolic to the beat of bands who play atop powerful roving sound systems, known as Trios Elétricos, which were invented by two pioneering Bahian musicians, Dodô and Osmar, and are now popular throughout Brazil.

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Parties in Bahia

It is affectionately said that "when Bahians are not actually participating in a festival they are rehearsing for one." And in a way it's true. The people of Bahia, a fusion of...


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