Salvador, Bahia celebrates Day of Black Consciousness even without official recognition as holiday

The washing of the Zumbi of Palmares statue in Praça da Sé in Salvador, Bahia on the Day of Black Consciousness
The washing of the Zumbi of Palmares statue in Praça da Sé in Salvador, Bahia on the Day of Black Consciousness

Note from BW of Brazil: In Salvador, Bahia, Wednesday, November 20th, the Day of Black Consciousness, baianos (people from Bahia) took to the streets in recognition of the legendary black hero Zumbi dos Palmares (1), negritude but also a few other issues. First, in Salvador, known throughout the country (and around the world), as the historic center of black Brazilian culture, November 20th is not actually a federally recognized holiday! Second, entities with the Movimento Negro (black rights organizations) are disputing the effectiveness of whether the holiday should be officially recognized or it is better to do without. Third, the celebration recognizes the 10th year of the passing of the law mandating the teaching of African and Afro-Brazilian History and Culture (Law 10.639/2003). And fourth, the struggle for right of baianas to sell acarajé fritters in front of stadiums during the coming World Cup games. If you’ve ever been to Salvador, Bahia, you know the baianas, their vending stands and traditional Bahian food items are of great importance to the culture of Salvador and Bahia in general. If you haven’t eaten an acarajé one might as well say they didn’t actually go to Salvador! And guess which internationally recognized restaurant is claiming the rights to oust the baianas. Do you need a hint? I’ll give you two: a clown and a yellow ‘M’….(Be sure to check out festivities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo also)

by Cleidiana Ramos and Priscila Machado

On Wednesday, 20, in the Bahian capital of Salvador, there were many celebratory events for National Black Consciousness Day events. Starting from Campo Grande, at 2pm, was held the oldest march held in Brazil to celebrate the day in memory of the black hero Zumbi dos Palmares.


The march, the theme of the march, which is in its 34th edition, is the 50th anniversary of the African Organization – today, the União Africana (African Union).

“This was the first march held in Brazil to commemorate the memory of Zumbi,” says Gilberto Leal, coordinator of the entity that organizes the event: the Coordenação Nacional de Entidades Negras (Conen National Coordination of Black Entities or Conen).


There were blocos afros such as Ile Aiye, Os Negoes, Malê Debalê and Okanbí, among others, commanding the walk organized by the Black Entities Forum. The march started in the Liberdade neighborhood at 3pm.

“Our theme is education, because it celebrates 10 years of law 10.639/2003,” says Walmir França, president of the forum. The law establishes the teaching of African history and Afro-Brazilian culture in schools.

Blocos afros lead the November 20th parade
Blocos afros lead the November 20th parade

The União dos Negros pela Igualdade (Union of Black People for Equality or UNEGRO) performed at 3pm, washing the statue of Zumbi, in Praça da Sé. The procession left from the Terreiro de Jesus. This year, the call is for the defense of the baiana de acarajé.

“They have the right to sell acarajé in the stadium during the World Cup (2), but now they have to fight against exclusion from the beach,” says Jerome Silva Júnior, coordinator of UNEGRO.


In the morning, the Terreiro Bogum, located in the Engenho Velho da Federação concedes the Mãe Ruinhó Medal to about 40 personalities who have contributed to the fight against racism and religious intolerance. The terreiro (house of worship) is one of the oldest traditions of jeje in Brazil, and is currently led by Nandoji Índia.

The traditional washing of the area around the Zumbi dos Palmares statue
The traditional washing of the area around the Zumbi dos Palmares statue brought together many baianas


Two years ago, President Dilma Rousseff signed Law 12.519/2011 establishing the National Day of Zumbi and Black Consciousness. But the date has not earned holiday status. The law is a result of the Senator Serys Slhessarenko project.

A proposal of the Chamber of Deputies came to request for the inclusion of the date in the list of national holidays, but was rejected by senators.


These decisions ultimately confuse many people. Salvador, for example, is not part of the list of about a thousand municipalities having the holiday on November 20. In 2010, during the commemoration of November 20 in Salvador, the then President Lula promised to sign the bill that created the holiday.


But possibly he mistook the real decision of the Senate on the date. For the president of the Fórum de Entidades Negras, which organizes the Caminhada da Liberdade (Walk of Freedom), Walmir França, the date should continue without the condition of holiday.

“Much of the Movimento Negro (black movement) is against the holiday because it demobilizes. We cannot stop this fight until racism is totally defeated,” he adds.


The coordinator of Conen, Gilberto Leal, agrees with the argument of França. “I am against the holiday. What I think is that there should be optional point in public institutions for civic celebration,” says Leal.

According to him, if there was holiday, schools could not do on this day, for example, actions that reinforce compliance with the Act 10.639/2003.

O ato de lavagem da estátua de Zumbi, na praça da Sé, vai reunir muitas baianas de acarajé

The coordinator of UNEGRO, Jerome Silva Júnior, claims to be in favor of the date becoming a holiday. “The Union should grant this holiday as a form of reparation. Why are there Catholic holidays? I would like to see a Brazilian worker receive their overtime or rest knowing that this is the fruit of the struggle of a black man called Zumbi,” added Jerome.

Black Beauty

In the crowd there were participants who showed off their beauty through African hairstyles, clothes and accessories.

The embedded braids decorated with cowries gave a special touch to the cabelo black (afro) of dancer Eliana Dias, 26, who proudly paraded through Rua Lima e Silva (street) to the drums of the Mais Belo dos Belos (Most Beautiful of the Beautiful).

“I adopted this look at 15 and since then, I became more confident. In no moment do I have fear of showing my roots,” she says.

The pride that Eliana and other young people feel for negritude is one of the main achievements of Ilê Aiyê, according to Vovô, president of the bloco.

“We’ve come a long way in the fight against racism, but there is still much to be modified, and that’s why we’re here. To say that prejudice exists and it needs to be combated and to awaken society to the importance of remembering our history,” he says.

Source: A Tarde (1), A Tarde (2), A Tarde (3)


1. To understand the cultural and historic importance of Zumbi of Palmares, please see here or a number of articles that mention this figure on this blog here.

FIFA rule threatens sell of acarajé and could rule that baianas could only sell the fritters 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) from the stadium
FIFA rule threatens sell of acarajé and could rule that baianas could only sell the fritters 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) from the stadium

2. From an article of A Tarde newspaper written by Davi Lemos on October 10, 2012: “The Arena Fonte Nova, the stadium that will host games of the Confederations Cup and the World Cup in Salvador, may go on without acarajé. The sale of the traditional fritter, listed by the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan or National Historical and Artistic Heritage) as intangible heritage, is characterized as itinerant trade. FIFA recommended the removal of this type of commerce from a radius of up to two kilometers from the squares of the game. Acarajé, in theory, cannot be a competitor of hamburgers produced by McDonald’s , the official sponsor of FIFA. “So far nobody has called me to talk about the situation of the baianas,” complains the president of the Associação das Baianas de Acarajé e Vendedoras de Mingau (Abam or Association of Baianas of Acarajé and Porridge Vendors), Rita Maria dos Santos Ventura. She ranks as absurd the hypothesis of there not being any baianas de acarajé in Fonte Nova. ‘There were eight baianas inside there who had to leave due to the work. Now that everything is new they want to get rid of the baianas? They all had a carteira (official work contract),’ Rita dos Santos says.”

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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