Lembrancas de Bumba-Meu-Boi

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My first few hours in São Luis were spent here at the Bumba-Meu-Boi competition. Intially, I took it as pure camp and regional diversion until I realized the depth of this particular farcical melodramatic dance and music competition. The essential narrative is one of miscegnation, colonialism and power depicting the Indigenous, the colonizing Portuguese rancher, the African in the guise of Mãe Catarina, the buffon and all knowing slave portrayed as by a man in drag. Both Catarina and the wife of the rancher are pregnant. At issue is the magical properties that cause what you adore to be reflected in the actions you make. In this instance the baby appears with a cow’s face. The farce allows an open discussion of the complexity of racial paradigms and historic uses of power in an arena of family entertainment with regional dishes and Brazilian carny-style snack foods. The competitions involve 6-10 troupes per night. Traditionally this festa was part of Juninha and the festivities for São João (St. John) in June. Financially, it became apparent that extending the competitions into July provided an outlet for locals on ‘winter break’ to have an escape concurrent to the beginning of the international tourist season…

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU

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