AP PHOTOS: Brazil slave descendants revive rites after COVID

Aug 19, 2022, 8:42 AM | Updated: 9:27 am

Adonildes da Cunha, right, Emperor, and Nilda dos Santos, left, Queen, arrive for a celebration aft...

Adonildes da Cunha, right, Emperor, and Nilda dos Santos, left, Queen, arrive for a celebration after a Mass in the chapel of the Kalunga quilombo, during the culmination of the week-long pilgrimage and celebration for the patron saint "Nossa Senhora da Abadia" or Our Lady of Abadia, in the rural area of Cavalcante in Goias state, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Devotees, who are the descendants of runaway slaves, celebrate Our Lady of Abadia at this time of the year with weddings, baptisms and by crowning distinguished community members, as they maintain cultural practices originating from Africa that mix with Catholic traditions. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

CAVALCANTE, Brazil (AP) — For three long years, Vandeli Matos was an emperor in waiting. The symbolic coronation of the 33-year-old finally occurred this week when the Kalunga quilombo — as Brazilian communities descended from runaway slaves are known — gathered for the first time since the pandemic began.

It was part of a festival that Kalunga’s 39 far-flung communities hold every August — or had held until the pandemic prevented the annual week of roaring festivities celebrating Our Lady of the Abbey.

Thousands of pilgrims from all corners of the vast Kalunga territory flocked to the municipality Cavalcante, some 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the capital, Brasilia, for this year’s coronations and other rituals.

Families set up in small wattle and daub houses, inhabited only during the festival. The structures, decorated with balloons, paper flowers and brightly colored fabrics, form a half-moon around the town’s chapel, where religious ceremonies take place.

“We tried to maintain the tradition the way it was,” said Irene Francisca, 55, who is better known as Tuta das Flores, one of the women overseeing this year’s decorations. “When we were born, this party already existed. This way of decorating with flowers was passed on to us by our mothers and grandmothers.”

Kalunga is Brazil’s largest quilombo, spreading across 1,000 square miles (2,600 square kilometers) in the Valley of Souls (Vao de Almas, in Portuguese). Its history began more than two centuries ago, when slaves fled the region’s mills and mining pits and settled in the hard-to-access valleys. Their descendants have occupied the area ever since, with a population now estimated around 10,000 people.

Houses in Kalunga territory are distant from one another, and connected by chewed-up dirt roads only four-wheel-drive vehicles can manage. Each year, Our Lady of the Abbey is the occasion for Kalungas to convene and mingle.

It’s a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary, but African slaves — forcibly brought to Brazil and prohibited from worshipping their own deities — embraced the ceremony while integrating some of their own traditions and beliefs from the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.

In Cavalcante, families take advantage of the rare presence of a priest to marry couples and baptize children, who dress in white. A lit candle symbolizes their encounter with Jesus Christ and entrance into the Catholic community. After the baptisms, musicians accompany the families to their homes.

The festival’s climax comes with the coronations of the Divine Holy Spirit and of Our Lady of the Abbey, represented by two emperors and a queen, picked randomly each year. On Monday, it was the turn of Matos, Adonildes da Cunha and Nilda dos Santos. They led their community along the pilgrimage’s final stretch to the chapel.


Associated Press writer Diane Jeantet contributed to this story from Rio de Janeiro.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Crystal Baziel holds the Pan-African flag Monday, June 19, 2023, during Reedy Chapel A.M.E C...

Associated Press

The beginner’s guide to celebrating Juneteenth

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since it was designated a federal […]

9 hours ago

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

5 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

6 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

8 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

12 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

AP PHOTOS: Brazil slave descendants revive rites after COVID