Salvador, Brazil: Lavagem do Bonfim
A Salvador Festival: Lavagem do Bonfim
This festival is the second largest in Salvador, after their annual carnival (which the locals claim to be the biggest party in the world, bigger than the Rio carnival, on the grounds that theirs occupies more space at any one time, albeit that it attracts fewer people). Anyway, the Bonfim festival is HUGE, with many tens of thousands taking part.
It starts with a ceremony at Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (The Church of Our Lady of Conception), a church in the lower town of Salvador, before the procession err processes 6.5 km to Igreja Nossa Senhor do Bonfim. Here the baianas (women in ritual dress, Bahian 'aunts') perform a ritual cleaning or lavagem of the church steps, overseen by Catholic priests and Candomble priestesses.
Bonfim is the most famous Catholic church in Salvador, renowned for its power to effect miracles. It is also the most important church in the Candomble religion (an African-originated religion). Salvador's population is more than 80% black, a legacy of the historic Portuguese slave trade with something like 5 million slaves brought to Brazil from Africa.
I confess I did not walk with the procession the whole way. I did complete the first 1.5 km but as each half a kilometre was taking an average of 45 minutes I decided to wimp out. I DID go to Bonfim a few days later, hence the photos.
Bonfim is also the source of the coloured ribbons or fitas that are everywhere in Salvador, as can be seen in the pictures.