People traveling to Belém do Pará will become aware of quite a different atmosphere in the city in October. From the moment they disembark the Surinam Airways aircraft at Val del Cans airport they will notice the decorations. Pay attention to the corda or fiber rope, the numerous fitas or ribbons and the abundance of flowers. The queen of the Amazon is coming! Círio de Nazaré is the largest celebration in Belém. From near and far people come on their bare feet for the pilgrimage. According to official figures, more than 2.5 million pilgrims take part.
Traveling on the SLM flight of 11 October is Mrs. Nel Stadwijk-Kappel. “My fourth time”, she says. The first time was twenty years ago. Not being aware of what was going on, she and her husband luckily managed to find a hotel room. After this experience, Nel – raised a Lutheran –intentionally returned to Belém to attend the Círio de Nazaré celebration.
Círio de Nazaré takes place every year during the second weekend of October. On Friday afternoon the statue of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus is taken by car through Ananindeua, the largest residential district of Belém. The next morning, Círio Fluvial is on the program. A large fleet of decorated vessels and a lot of fireworks make this procession the largest manifestation on the river. In the evening this day is concluded with the transladação, the evening procession. Many people opt for this, to avoid the hot sun during the day. The final stop is the historic Catedral da Sé, behind the market place. Diehards stay for the vigil on the square in front of the church.
Sunday morning at seven o’clock the largest procession in South America begins. The distance to the Basílica Santuário, where the image was found in the forest by a creek in 1793, is three kilometers. Mrs. Stadwijk-Kappel, who doesn’t speak Portugese, has participated in both processions. “I love the atmosphere in Brazil, but this experience is something else! People come from around the world. Many young people too. To me, the penance done on the knees was very touching. People are exhausted, but still they continue. That’s how deep their faith is. With a heart full of emotion I touched one person and said in Sranangtongo: ‘Gado blesi yere …’ and in this way transferred God’s blessing.” The old lady is extra happy this time. Besides the wonderful pilgrimage she witnessed, she was also blessed on the occasion of her 81st birthday in the basilica during that same weekend.
Text & photos: Charles Chang, October 2019
Translation: Roline Brahim-Tjen A Kwoei/Equivalence Translations
Want to experience this too? Book a ticket well in advance for 9, 10 & 11 October 2020 at Surinam Airways: Belém do Pará. You can also book online: www.flyslm.com. The flights from Paramaribo to Belém will be on Thursday and Sunday from November 3, 2019.