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Afro Brazilians Celebrate One of the World’s Largest Harvest Festivals in June

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Salvador Bahia Brazil is not only the capital of carnival but also has the most popular harvest festival in the country. The Festa Junina (June festivals) begin on the 16th with- Corpus Christi day and end on July 2 with Bahian Independence day. 

Right in the middle, on June 24, is Sao Joao Day, the official harvest celebration. The whole period is filled with celebrations honoring the agricultural history of the region. 

In many ways, this localized holiday season rivals the summer carnival. The June festivities are more traditional and very celebrated by the main states of the region. They are essential events for commerce and tourism in the Northeast since they are also held during school holidays, making it possible for the whole family to travel together.

This guarantees a profit for rural cities and states, with crowded hotels generating jobs.

Although the holidays began as remembrances of Catholic saints, they were quickly transformed by the cultural influence of the African and indigenous populations in the northeast. Through Afro-Brazilian influences, especially Candomblé, the June festivals began to have new manifestations in the country.

One example is the relationship established between the saints and the orishas. The images of São Peter and São John are synchronized with that of Xangô, the African deity of justice and lightning. 

Like most celebrations, music, food and dance fill the festival stages called campos. 

Forró is the name of the music and dance genre. Its roots can be found on the farms and plantations of northeastern Brazil, where farmers and African slaves utilized singing to manage the animals and communicate with one another while they harvested crops including sugarcane, corn and vegetables as well as coffee. For each crop and stage of the collection, they had a different song.

The songs traveled with the farmers and field workers as they corralled cows and carried crops from the fields into the homes and cafes, and everyone joined in singing together. The songs were then performed by gifted local vocalists at events and parties, and occasionally they engaged in unofficial competitions with rival viola (guitar) players in freestyle rap-like improvisations. The primary instruments at first were the huge metal triangle, zabumba (an Afro-Brazilian drum), and guitar (also known as the viola). The accordion was later incorporated into traditional forró bands as a result of the French influence.

As one would anticipate from dishes prepared in a rural setting, the food at Festa Junina is thick and produced with regional ingredients. Typical dishes include bolo de fubá, which are corn cakes made from finely ground rice or corn flour, curau, which is cornmeal mixed with condensed milk and peanuts and then sprinkled with cinnamon, cocada de colher, which is shredded coconut mixed with condensed milk and butter, and paçoca (candy made out of crushed peanuts).

Straw hats and plaid shirts are typical festival attire, representing the stereotypical look of rural Brazilians.  Women typically wear a Chita vestido. Vestido translates as “dress.” Chita is a traditional Brazilian fabric that is commonly used in house accessories, decoration, as well as clothing, and fashion. 

The area is illuminated by bonfires (fogueiras) along the roads that connect the towns. Bandeirinhas (small flags) can also be found everywhere because they are the most traditional decoration in Festas Juninas.

Remember to add this popular and fun festival to your bucket list.

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