With colorful costumes, forró and vibrant choreographies, the June festivities return to Brazil
The popular celebrations are the prelude to Carnival
Colorful costumes, forró and vibrant choreographies are the fuel of the traditional June festivals, which are celebrated throughout the country during the months of June and July, and are especially lively and crowded in the Northeast states.
Pernambuco, Alagoas, Maceió, Bahia, Sergipe, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte or Maranhão, the Brazilian states where the climate is tropical throughout the year, celebrate the biggest June festivals in the country. Some massive, others minor, the celebrations in honor of Saint John are a tradition that can be enjoyed throughout the country, from Brasilia to São Paulo, in Bahia or Santa Catarina.
After two years of pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities foresee a return that will strengthen identity and traditions, but also the productive chain linked to tourism. In Maceió, the capital of Alagoas, it is estimated that during the festivities more than R$ 100 million (about 20 million dollars) will be injected into the regional economy, benefiting 9,400 companies in 32 segments and boosting hotel occupancy, according to a survey of the Fecomercio Institute of Alagoas. The celebrations in Caruaru (Pernambuco), estimate a total attendance of two million people and an economic impact of more than 40 million dollars in the local economy, according to estimates by the Ministry of Tourism.
The celebration in Campina Grande, Paraíba, is usually the largest in Brazil, and expects to close its numbers at three million tourists and a turnover of about 80 million dollars, according to the Tourism portfolio. The program in Campina Grande will run until July 10 and will include more than a thousand hours of traditional forró music and around 800 attractions, including national artists, bands, trios, crews and folk groups.
One of the banners of the festival is forró, a musical genre declared a cultural heritage of Brazil, which is integrated into caipira music, and the choreographies (called cuadrillas) stage a peasant wedding, with exchange of couples. The costumes are inspired by rural clothing, and the cities where it is celebrated are decorated with colored pennants.
The June holidays have their roots in Europe, in the pagan celebrations of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Arrived in this part of the world with the Portuguese colonization, they initially had a religious connotation in homage to Saint John and Saint Anthony, but now each one has its own pagan characteristics.
In Maranhão, for example, the festivities last 60 days, with more than 500 attractions, including performances by popular artists and some 70 comparsas (arraiais) throughout the state. The main attraction is the boi-bumbá ceremony, a fantasy bull that comes roaring and is “sacrificed” to the hubbub of the crowd. In the plot -a tribute to the religious syncretism of Brazil- the owner of the farm discovers that the "animal" died and demands that Indian shamans and healers be summoned who, through song and dance, revive the ox.
The celebration combines the Christian tradition with cults of African origin that include drums, squares (inspired by ballroom dances of the 18th and 19th centuries) and Portuguese dance, among other attractions.