TRAVEL TO BAHIA
Connect to Care in the Heart of Brazil!
Festa da Boa Morte
Festa de Yemanjá
This travel project was created in 2008 in partnership with friends and colleagues in Bahia who are passionate about sharing the region's unique culture with the people from around the world. Bahia is the location of the film, Yemanja: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil, narrated by Alice Walker. Director Donna Roberts conducted graduate research here, among Brazilian women environmental educators/ activists and has been coming here since 1997.
Two faces of Bahia: Salvador and Cachoeira
Salvador was Brazil's first capital and the largest slave port in the Americas. Millions of enslaved Africans landed on Bahia's shores during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, while Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery in 1888. This long history resulted in incredibly in tact traditional African cultural manifestations...from music, visual arts and cuisine, to the powerful Afro-indigenous spiritual culture of Candomblé as depicted in the film. Extraordinary women leaders are at the apex of leadership of most traditional Candomblé communities which are based on mutual support, care for the environment, and deep devotion to ancestors and spiritual guides known as Orixás.
In August, travelers from around the world journey to Bahia to experience the annual 3-day sacred festival known as the Festa da Irmandade da Boa Morte. This festival celebrates the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death (aka Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte), formed 250 years ago. The Sisterhood began to buy the freedom of female slaves. Its members are all distinguished leaders of Candomblé. Women must be at least 50 years old to join.
Cachoeira is home to the Sisterhood and is considered by many as the "mecca" of Candomblé. Most travelers visit Cachoeira for just a day or an overnight during the Festa da Boa Morte. Donna has cultivated a relationship with a Brazilian family with a lovely estate known as Casa do Morro, a former trade school, where groups stay for several nights. It is a peaceful retreat overlooking the city of Cachoeira, with a meditation circle, pool, and space for massage and yoga. Casa is a short drive from the busy festival in the historic small town, yet it feels as if it is a world away.
On February 2, life in big city Salvador (population of 3 million) halts to pay homage to the Goddess/Orixá of the Sea, known as Yemanjá. This Yoruban deity is beloved in Brazil, considered the Mother of all life, reflecting the life giving essence of the waters of the world. People from all backgrounds bring flowers to the sea, offering prayers, asking for blessings on this Bahian "high holiday". Yemanja is also celebrated in Cachoeira, in a small town version of the massive festa in Salvador. Visiting both versions of the celebration is a wonderful way to honor Yemanjá and see two distinct faces of Bahia!
These journeys aren't just about caring for ourselves. While travelers may interact with artists and spiritual leaders, take city tours, enjoy the music scene, shop in the old city, or enjoy the beach, we also interact with the Salvador-based women's and girls' organization Calafate Women's Collective which focuses on ending violence against women, creates opportunities for livelihood, enhancing self-esteem. In the past, we have offered photography workshops to the young women of Calafate, designed t-shirts featuring their art (which the group used to raised funds), and facilitated a retreat for the women at Casa do Morro during the Festa da Boa Morte. The women of Calafate have offered us Capoeira classes and a unique chance to broaden our horizons. Travelers with extraordinary talents may request a tailored service opportunity to allow their gifts to be shared with local community.
Vamos lá! Lets go!
For more information, contact Donna Roberts by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(photos clockwise from top left: meditation circle at Casa do Morro; the grounds of Casa; Salvador's old city Pelorounho and one of its many vistas.)