I was born and raised in Manaus, in the Amazon, a city that borders the Amazon river. My ancestors are part native indians, part Europeans, like a good chunk of the Brazilian population.
The Amazon culture is very rich in legends, tales, stories, centered around the forest, animals, and everything derived from the native indigenous culture. My dear grandma Olendina used to always tell stories from the years she lived in the country side, in the forest. The Boi Bumbá is part of this rich regional folklore.
"The ritual of the Bumbás shows the legend of Father Francisco and Mother Caitirina who, with the help of the Pajé (indian healer), are able to resuscitate the farm owner's ox. The legend tells that Mother Caitirina, pregnant, wishes to eat the tongue of the farm's most beautiful ox. To satisfy the desire of his wife, Father Francisco kills the farm owner's pet ox. Father Francisco is discovered, tries to escape, but is arrested. To save the ox, a priest and a doctor (the Pajé, in the indian tradition) are called and the ox is resurrected. Father Francisco and Mather Caitirina are pardoned and a great feast takes place." (source: Wikipedia)
In the 9 years that we've been living in the USA, the music (toadas) and lyrics of the boi-bumbá have been one of the best ways we've found to keep connected with our native culture. 2008 was our first time visiting Parintins to watch the Folkloric Festival that happens there every year on the last weekend of June. I confess to being absolutely mesmerized with the beauty of the festival, with the very high degree of refinement, art, and the impecable hospitality of the people of Parintins.
We traveled to Parintins by boat (and returned to Manaus by plane, a mere 45-minute flight), because all flights were booked already, and made all the arrangements at the last minute (I thank my dear sister-in-law Jordana for arranging everything for us). We boarded an express boat, arriving in Parintins 12 hours later. The boat had its interior much like an airplane, with lined-up chairs for the passengers, unlike the regular regional boats ("motor"). Our on board service was actually good, with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We arrived in Parintins at 6 PM, a couple hours before the start of the Festival. We were in the "galera" (fan base) of the boi Garantido. We've been fans for a while. The party started with deafening (and beautiful) pyrotechnics, followed by the open air opera that tells the legend of the boi bumbá, amazonian legends, its tribes, regional characters, and so on. The costumes -- like the ones in this picture -- are true works of art, the result of the beautiful creativity and dedication of all those who work in the festival all year long.
The floats further take your breath away, each bringing different characters and dancers, with movement and dances that, with the music and energy of the presenting boi's fan base ("galera") create a spetactacle worthy of any major metropolis, but strikingly happen instead in the small island in the middle of the Amazon River. I believe this took the crew of the Bandeirantes TV network by surprise. Bandeirantes broadcasted the entire festivity nationally for the first time.
On Saturday, second day of the Festival, we took a walk through town by taking a tricycle - a bicycle adapted to carry several people. We went downtown, to the harbor, to the local open market bustling with people and souvenirs of each boi bumbá. The strong police presence was striking and welcome, with slogans that referenced the bumbás. In the stands at the bumbódrome (where the party takes place), the police uniforms had colors that matched the different fan bases: red for the Garantido, blue for the Caprichoso.
On the second night we dined at a tiny restaurant across the street from the bumbódrome. I was impressed with the restaurant's cashier, that had a computer, not something you usually see at a street restaurant. Looking from the back of the computer everything seemed normal, until I looked closer and noticed the "monitor" was nothing more than a monitor case being used to keep the money. Another show of creativity from the people of Parintins. My beautiful Juliane is in the picture, along the restaurant's cashier.
On the festival's second night I thought the Garantido boi had the best presentation (each of the 2 competitors presents for 2.5 hours on each of the festival's 3 nights), unlike the first night, where the Caprichoso was clearly the winner. I must admit that the Garantido is the clear owner of my heart, with its beautiful poetry and songs (toadas) and a galera of electrifying energy. I invite all to visit Parintins and experience this fantastic party. It is undoubtedly worth it. I'll finish this post with a montage of the videos I made during the festival. Enjoy. Feel free to ask any questions about the festival, its history and how to visit.
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