Today is the Lavagem do Bomfim, one of the most important and largest festivals in Salvador da Bahia.
On this day, hundreds of women dressed in typical baiana garb and carrying vases of scented water and flowers parade through the Cidade Baixa (Lower City) to the Igreja do Nosso Senhor do Bonfim to wash the stairs of the church, a ritual that has gone back almost 250 years and reflects the powerful blend of Catholicism and candomblé that distinguishes the Northeast of Brazil. Nosso Senhor do Bonfim is synchronized with the orixá Oxalá, the father of all orixás.
Follwing an early morning mass at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia, located in the Comercio neighborhood, on the road that connects the Cidade Alto (Upper City) to the Cidade Baixa, the baianas set out for the approximately 10 kilometer walk to the Igreja do Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.
In their wake follows a happy jumble of hundreds of thousands of locals, tourists, politicians, musical acts, street merchants, capoeiristas, reporters, tv cameras, and assorted others having a good time under the hot summer sun. The streets of the pathway are lined with barracas selling traditional Bahian food and drinks. And if you are a fan of fitas, the colorful ribbon bracelets associated with Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, you’re in luck because there is no dearth of them today in the streets of Salvador.
Once the baianas arrive at the Igreja do Bomfim, they sing songs praising Nosso Senhor do Bonfim and Oxalá and set to washing the stairs of the church with their scented water and brooms. When the religious ceremony is complete, the party continues in the Largo do Bonfim outside of the church. Everyone is in a good mood because they know that when the Lavagem do Bonfim hits, Carnival is around the corner!
If you are in Salvador today, have a blast! If not, there is always next year…