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Our friend and expert on the Bumba meu Boi game, Prof. Dr. Soraia Chung Saura, visited us here in Maranhão and she gifted us with beautiful descriptions of her visit:

Finally, on the 28th, we got ready to follow “Saint Peter,” as this festivity is called. Now the groups no longer split into fairs around the city: they all concentrate at the foot of the saint’s church.

The church really is at the top of a hill, all glass and wood, its light blazing down at us, mere mortals, at the bottom of the hill. Admitting our small stature, we climbed the immense staircase made of tall steps. The image of Saint Peter was inside the church, on a beautifully decorated boat with flowers and perfume. Having the responsibility of bringing rain, controlling the weather and storms, he is the patron saint of fishermen. He becomes a saint to all of us adrift in this life. He is normally celebrated around the world with maritime and terrestrial processions, with thundering happiness, but we had never seen a celebration like this. The battalions of bumba-meu-boi, all gathered with their percussive instruments, make the earth tremble. From up high, in his glass dome, Saint Peter sees all: the staircase and those who climb it (some on their knees and in tears), the bull groups that thunderously enter the church one by one and parade their beauties to the saint, ceaselessly playing and dancing; the square that opens down below with a throng of revelers, the Beira-mar Avenue and the maritime horizon.

The entire spectacle is for Him, but we were dizzy in the face of such a demonstration of force, courage, and faith from the revelers. The evening of the 28th is a setting to be explored and everyone faces it with enthusiasm and without fear. “The realm of the night does not know time nor space,” Durand once said. They play and, in this symbolic, imagetic, exalting and exultant game, they never tire. They’re used to saying “parties that don’t go into the morning are children’s parties.” It is important for the day to break, to see the gloom of night brighten after long and arduous work, pass by the festivities, clear up, in light of all the effort. Dawn brings even more unrestrained power, dazzling! The battalions “renew” at the foot of the church and the saint.

We meet Tião Carvalho still in the early morning. With a reveler’s eye, he helps us see, pointing all the way down: “Look at that group gathered there. Look at the other one: it’s big! Geting ready to come up.” Right then, that group of people explodes up the stairs. They climb up with force and energy, shaking excitedly. They play with all their might, as if they hadn’t been playing all night already. They enter the church with the rumble of the their thunderous drums. They set a shining bull at the foot of the altar. If I were the saint, I would be moved by the spectacle of these men. We don’t believe enough in what our eyes see.


The 29th, the actual day of Saint Peter, is a day with a cloudy glow. A glimmer of golden light shines on the image carried by the firefighters to a barge on the edge of the sea. Saint Peter and his boat are leaving, taking all our wishes for the coming year. On the high sea, with colorful flags, it wanders slowly. After an entire night, I look at my friends. I feel an immense gratitude in being with them, in being alive.


Text: Soraia Chung Saura

Photos: Renata Meirelles

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