Futebol Riots and Candomble Ceremonies

Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog

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 After several days of rain, the sun finally returned and there was another soccer game on Saturday. I wanted to go again and experience a game in nice weather. Only four of us went this time and it was a lot more manageable getting around with a smaller group. We put on our team jerseys and headed to the stadium. There was a lot of excitement in the air because the game was part of the championships or leading up to the championships. I'm not sure which, but the fans were definitely pumped up. We got cheap beer and kebabs and found seats.

We were having fun and chatting with locals sitting by us but our team was losing. All of a sudden, some crazed fans started running on to the field and brought the game to halt. The police ran after them with their batons. Someone was injured and an ambulance drove onto the field. The fans all started throwing their cups of beer onto the field at the police and more people ran onto the field. The cops released tear gas into the stands and we kept having to move up to the top of stadium to avoid it. But this didn't stop the angry fans and they covered their faces with their jerseys and continued to throw cups of beer at the growing number of cops. I thought it was a good idea to get out of there quickly. The really drunk people were the ones throwing things and rushing the field and the sober to buzzed people were all quickly leaving the stadium. Another housemate was convinced the situation would get better and we should wait it out. After being teargased the second time, everyone finally agreed to leave. Later, we found out that the situation got worse after we left. People started throwing chunks of cement at the cops, there was much more tear gas and one person died. The last game scheduled at the stadium was cancelled.

After the visits to the terreiros on Wednesday, Romy and I were still curious about Candomble so the staff helped us arrange a visit to a Candomble ceremony on Sunday. We didn't know beforehand which Orixa it would be for and we were encouraged to wear light-colored clothing. On Sunday evening, a guide came with a van to pick up the volunteers who wanted to go. He was one of Fred's friends and a follower of Candomble. He was very informative and elaborated on what Fred had discussed a few days before. Many of the Candomble houses are on the outskirts of of the city so it was a long drive. He explained that we were going to a ceremony for all the female Orixas, Oxum and Iemanja in particular.

When we arrived, the ceremony had already begun. Men sat on one side and females sat on the othe. Many people were dressed in yellow for Oxum and had offerings of flowers. The room was decorated with paper fish hanging from the ceiling because both Iemanja and Oxum rule over water. The drummers were pounding away and both male and female priests were dancing in a circle. In the rhythms of the percussion and the steps of their dance movements, you could hear and see the foundation for samba. They went through praising all of the Orixas, and then they continued to dance to invoke their patron Orixas and fell into a trance. They would sometimes stop doing the regular dance and wander out of the circle. When they fell into a trance, someone would come untie their headwraps and tie it on a different part of their body. It was all very unusual. As I had heard other people say before, when you are watching the ceremony, you really get a sense that they are devoted to what they are doing and not putting on a show for gringos. For that reason, they don't allow picture taking or recording of the ceremony.

After awhile, there was a break and they served dinner. We didn't eat, but there was something on the plate that looked a lot like the black eyed pea stew we eat in Ghana. I wouldn't be surprised if the meat they served was from an animal sacrificed earlier that day. During the break, our guide explained more of what had happened in the ceremony to us and what was coming next. When we went back in the room, the preists returned dressed in elaborate costumes as their patron Orixas. It was long and hard to understand all of the details, but it was good to see it first hand. I had seen examples of the roots of Candomble and seen the influence it's had on popular Brazilian culture and it was really interesting to see the intersection of cultures.
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Salvador da Bahia Sights & Attractions review
Visiting a Candomble ceremony is a great way to get to the heart of the Afro-Brazilian culture. The ceremonies take place at Candomble houses called "… read entire review