Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coisas do Pará/Things of Pará

Círio de Nazaré

On the second Sunday in October, Pará celebrates the largest and greatest religious event in Brazil. The procession of the Círio of Nazaré. History goes that the popular Círio tradition started when a farmer and lumberman called Plácido José de Souza found an image of the Saint at the margin of the Murucutu creek, where the Basilica of Nazaré stands today. The humble man, then, decided to take the image home. However, the image would mysteriously go back to the place where it was initially found every time he took it home. So Plácido decided to build, at the margin of the creek, a small chapel. This episode was reported throughout the region as miraculous, attracting hundreds of believers to see the image and pay homage to it.
Since then, the Círio is celebrated as a long procession of faith, in which thousands of people follow the saint through the streets of Belém, in a manifestation that lasts around five hours for unity, emotion and devotion, with no distinction of social classes, to express the strongest devotion to the belief. The Círio is the regarded as the "Christmas of the Amazon" because it is a moment of congregation in which everyone is involved in the arrangements to receive the saint, in an atmosphere of fraternity with people becoming more sympathetic and happier. In early September, minor celebrations take place as a spiritual preparation for the Círio, with thousands of images scattered all over the capital and neighboring cities, gathering families from different parts of the capital to run pilgrimage of Our Lady among choirs and prayers.

Círio de Nazaré celebration.
In the old times the celebration was limited to the Trasladação (Transfer), the Círio, the Procession and the Re-círio (post-Círio). But it was necessary to incorporate new manifestations to the tradition due to the people's yearning to honor their patron saint. On Saturday morning, prior to the Círio, the Saint is taken to the square of Ananindeua, a nearby city, in front of the Main Church to start at 6 am the Road Pilgrimage, organized by the Pará State Cargo Transportation Companies' Union (SINDICARPA), which conducts the image to the Icoaraci pier by road for a field mass.
Then, the river pilgrimage starts. It was created and organized by the former president of the Pará Tourism Company (PARATUR), Carlos Roque, to honor the "water men" who regard the Virgin of Nazareth as their patron saint. PARATUR also promotes a traditional ship contest to award the most originally decorated boat. When the Sacred Image leaves Icoaraci in the event's official ship, a Navy Corvette, it is followed by tens of boats and ships of all colors and types, decorated to greet the Virgin and follow her through the waters of the Guajará Bay to the pier of Belém, where it will be escorted by motorcyclists all the way to the Gentil Bittencourt School, only leaving at 6 pm for the Trasladação (Transfer), which is a symbolism for reviving the story of the discovery of the Saint and its return to the place where it was found, in a candle-lit procession, following the Carriage that is tied to a rope that is carried by the faithful until it arrives at the Sé Cathedral.

Cord and procession.
During its course, a firework show takes place with thousands of colorful fireworks, sponsored by the Stevedores' Union, marking the passage of the Saint until its arrival at the Cathedral, where it is received, gently, with a religious program. At daybreak of the next day, the faithful start to gather at the Old City, believing that this will bring them closer to the Virgin. At around 4 am, the rope is stretched by Our Lady's guards and, within minutes, is held by the "vowers", who have long looked forward to an incredible back-and-forth choreography, like human waves, sparking the solidarity from the bystanders, who try to quench the thirst of those carrying the rope by offering them water.
While the 12 cars that take part in the procession, like the scouts' barge, the new barge, the angels' barge, the miracle's barge, amongst others, are orderly positioned to receive wax figures, wooden house miniatures and other images to thank for their achievements over the year. At 7 o'clock, the archbishop conducts Our Lady's image to the carriage as the bells toll and the fireworks explode, thus setting the beginning of the biggest religious event of Latin America.

Basílica Santuário Nossa Senhora de Nazaré.
Throughout the course, the faithful make reflections on biblical themes, pray, sing, pay homage with a shredded paper shower, lifting their arms towards the sky, acclaiming during the procession and praising the Virgin. From the Padre Champagnat Street towards the Ver-o-Peso Market, passing by Portugal Avenue and Castilho França Boulevard, going up the Presidente Vargas Avenue, reaching the Republic Square to get to the Nazaré Avenue as far as the Architectonic Centre of Nazareth, known for its Sanctuary Square.
As it arrives at the square, the image is removed from the carriage for the celebration of a mass and then lifted so that everybody will be blessed by the patron saint of Pará. This marks the end of the procession, which is filled with emotion and endless applause by the crowd.
The festivities are 15 days long, with religious celebrations, like the Children's Círio, and its procession, held two Sundays after the Círio. Cultural activities, visiting the Círio Museum, and leisure, with an amusement park at the Arraial de Nazaré. The Re-Círio marks the end of the celebrations, with a shorter course, but with no less emotion, for the Saint's farewell, with tears, waving with white handkerchiefs, hope and thanks, to the Gentil Bittencourt chapel, bringing a feeling of lightness and renovation to expect for another year.


The local Amerindian culture extracts colors, scents, flavors and native tastes from the nature for a rich and exotic cuisine, adding up to the most authentic of regional cuisines. One such dish, "Cupuaçu", comes from the Cupuaçu tree, found in the Amazonian woods. Cupuaçu is easily identified by its smell and sour taste and it is highly appreciated both by local people and by tourists. Its pulp is also extracted to make juices, candies, jellies, liquors, ice cream and candies. Açaí is a palm tree with a long thin stem. Açaí is also known as Jussara, is purple-colored and has a delicious taste. It has been appreciated by the local population for a long time, but lately it has reached the national menu.
Freshwater crab is a very popular dish in the city's cuisine, and is only found in swamps. Its meat, well tempered, can be served in different forms: as a shell, the so-called unha (the claws) or toc-toc. It is a traditional local delicacy. "Maniçoba", is one of the highlights of the local cuisine. Its preparation is long and its final appearance is quite surprising for those who have never tried it, due to the dark look of the cooked maniva (ground manioc leaves). But this first impression ends pretty soon, after you taste the meal and its seemingly awkward ingredients. The maniçoba is served either in pottery dishes or in ordinary ones. It can be eaten with rice or only with manioc flour and capsicum.

Ver-o-Peso Market

Created in 1688, as a result of the Portuguese deciding to levy a tax for everything entering and leaving Amazon. Despite resembling a large retailer, the mixture of colors, fragrances and objects is very interesting as well as folkloric.
Medicinal herbs, various regional fruits, arts and crafts, domestic utilities, meats, fish and seasonings and spices can be found there. The Market brings together two thousand stalls and traders in every part and is located near to the old Mercado de Ferro (Iron market), on the quays.

Mercado Ver-o-Peso.

Font: Wikipedia

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