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'Ox Parties' in Northern Brazil
Celebrations on Manaus' 337th anniversary
Antonio Carlos Rix (carlosrix)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-23 17:44 (KST)   

Larissa and a friend on stage
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
The Party Ox, or Trick of the Ox, originated in northern Brazil, and derives from both indigenous and African folk dance, the Bumba-meu-Boi. With the constant migration of northeasterners to the north, especially the state of Amazonas, the Ox soon was assimilated by the population, acquiring local characteristics.

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> The Parintins Festival

Boi Bumba ("to beat the bull"-ed.) presents myths, tales and legends using characters, parade carts and giant puppets under a master of ceremonies, who describes in detail every bit of the story as it unfolds. There are many similar festivals in Brazil, based on several different variations of the legend, and the town of Parintins (pop 114,000), some 400 km from Manaus (pop 1.8 million and capital of the state of Amazonas-ed.) and situated on an island in the Amazon River, hosts the biggest and most fantastic of all. The Parintins Ox Dance festival is held every June (and is based on a tale brought to the town by migrants in the early 1900s, coming to the region to seek their fortune during the rubber extraction boom/carnaval.com-ed.).

Manaus Ox Party

Created to commemorate the founding of the city in 1669, the Manaus Ox Party is a combination of a "micareta," or Carnaval out of time, and a folk festival held every year, from now until Oct. 24, at the Humberto Calderaro Cultural Center in the Sambodromo, a paved way about 450 m long (476 feet) and a special place for samba celebrations. I will try to give a good picture of what it is all about. It is a chance to personally share some of its images, sounds and power with OhmyNews readers.

The Legend

Larissa Mendes Paula
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
The Manaus Ox shares an identical history with the Bumba-meu-Boi from other northern regions and is a popular opera, whose plot does not vary a lot from place to place. There are innumerable Ox Parties, but they've all developed around the legend of a farmer who had a very special ox, quite pretty and highly prized, which he presented to his beloved daughter, entrusting it to a ranch hand, Pae Francisco. Francisco's pregnant wife, Mae Caterina, develops a craving to eat the tongue of the ox.

Desperate that Caterina may lose the son they have waited for if her craving is not satisfied, he decides to steal and slaughter his master's ox and present the tongue to his wife. The crime is discovered, and after some adventures, local Indians are called in to help capture Francisco in his forest hideout. He is brought before the farmer and threatened with death as punishment. However, St John the Baptist visits the farmer's dreams and warns him not to kill the couple. Again desperate, Pae Francisco resuscitates the ox with the help of spiritual shamans, called Curandeiros. The couple is able to harness the power of the drum beat to resurrect the ox and save themselves from harm. All ends well, with Francisco being forgiven.

The Party

Yes, as I mentioned above the Boi (Ox) is an event mixed with mythical and folk legends common in the northern region of Brazil. In Manaus, it is part of the city anniversary celebrations too.

Spectators dancing along to the festive music
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
Trio Electrico
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
The Boi I just witnessed, too, is different from the one in Parintins - where there are many more people, floats and fantasies.

The Parintins Ox Festival is often compared to Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, only that melancholy romantic tunes called "toadas" are led by singers -- who are more like cheerleaders than any thing else -- not the samba. These singers invite people to dance and motivate them to sing along with regional songs.

Manaus boi does not have floats nor many fancy costumes. It is more like a gathering of singers.

Trio Electrico
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
Despite the crowds, there were no fights or other problems.
©2006 Antonio Carlos Rix
In all, we had a great time. Some people came back to the hotel at sunrise. This whole story started with an invitation from the city administration and the Hotel Adrianopolis where I always stay. They arranged for transportation and amenities in Manaus.

On the way back, each of us received a nice T-shirt as a gift. Manaus is definitely a city to be visited.

Tonight I am going to another Boi party. This time I'll be sure to dance and enjoy the party! I'll try to bring you a better picture from behind the scenes. It is very nice to be an OhmyNews reporter. You learn to look at things more carefully and invitations and opportunities do pop up. I want to thank OhmyNews for the opportunity!

Links to many Boi parties throughout Brazil:
Parintins - http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~caforum/volume2/vol2_article3.html
Parintins - http://parintins.com/
Manaus - http://www.brasilviagem.com/pontur/?CodAtr=2937
Wikipedia - http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boi-bumb%C3%A1
Adrianopolis - http://www.manaushoteis.tur.br/adrianopolis.php
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Antonio Carlos Rix

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