Bumba Meu Boi
When: Last weekend of June or first weekend of July
Where: Amazonas, Brazil
Parintins is a medium-sized river town that was popular among migrants in the 1900s for its booming rubber industry. The Bumba Meu Boi is based on a folk lore brought about by these migrants (presumably Christians).
According to the legend, a local farmhand killed an ox (or bull) to satisfy his wife’s craving for the ox’s tongue. His crime was discovered by the ox’s owner, so the owner called for the help of a local shaman who brought the ox back to life. The farmhand is forgiven, and everyone rejoices.
The tale has been retold in processions since 1913, but over time the characters have become more colorful as local Indian legends (and animal characters) are incorporated in the festivities.
About the Event:
Bumba Meu Boi or Boi Bumba is fast becoming a competitor to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. It is a theatrical rendition of the ox’s death and resurrection performed on the streets of north and northeastern Brazil, although there are celebrations of varying themes all throughout the country.
The crowd gathers in an arena and they are split into two teams, red (Garantido) and blue (Caprichoso). Each one takes turn in singing, chanting, wild dancing and stampeding. Each group is led by a character dressed as an ox, and the crowd invites the ox to charge against them by chanting “boi bumba” (beat the bull); hence, the festivals’ other name.
Over the years, the characters have become more colorful and more flamboyant. Dancers are dressed in over-the-top headdresses and women dancers don skimpy outfits that are sometimes intended to mimic winged creatures (there is no connection to the original legend, so this addition must have been made in the context of Indian folk lore).
Bumba Meu Boi has become a tourist attraction in itself, and the stakes are bigger than ever. There are 22 categories that the teams are scored in, and at the end of the three-day carnival, winners for best music, best crowd support, best ox and best floats, among others, are announced. The winning team celebrates in a street parade.
The festivities are held in the last weekend of June or early July (because in other versions St. John the Baptist appeared in the dream of one of the characters), and this year, the Bumba Meu Boi in the Amazonas was scheduled on June 24-26. Next year’s schedule is yet to be determined.
There is a dearth of tourist accommodation in the Amazonian region of Brazil, so the tourists’ best bet is to arrive by boat, and book lodgings on the boat (beds are hammocks). There are three- or four-day packages offered by travel agencies in Manaus and Santarem (nearby towns), and they are lucrative options when hotels are booked to capacity. Otherwise, party-going travelers will have to go back and forth up and down river.
Brazil is best known for its extremely colorful festivities and bacchanalian celebrations. Bumba Meu Boi is the best place to let loose and shake off the stresses of modern life.