Note from BW of Brazil: As recognition of the Easter season is recognized around the world, I thought it would interesting to present an historic event that takes place every year around this time in the state of Goiás known as the Procissão do Fogaréu. Although this procession has its own history, images from the procession is surely to conjure up dreadful memories of another practice that, from appearances, may seem a little too similar for comfort. I’m sure most people, particularly from the United States, are familiar with the images I speak of. But before delving into that, let’s see what a Wikipedia entry says about the procession that is today’s topic.
The Fogaréu procession was introduced in Goiás (central Brazil) by the Spanish priest Perestelo de Vasconcelos, in the mid-eighteenth century. The clothing used by penitents maintains strong similarities with the garments that are still common in the Holy Week celebrations in Spain. It is, in effect, a suit of medieval origin, which was customarily used by penitents so that they could atone for their sins without having to publicly reveal their identity.
Note from BW of Brazil: So relax! Although a group of hooded men marching while carrying flaming torches may remind you of the racist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan, or simply the KKK, it’s a whole other history that can be found in other parts of the world. For example, we find this entry from the Mexico Bob blog:
Every year in Irapuato, as well as in most cities and towns in Mexico, on “Viernes Santo”, Good Friday, there is a silent march. It consists of volunteers who walk the streets in complete silence and solemnity either carrying a platform on their collective shoulders or shepherding a religious float that is propelled by some form of motor vehicle. The platforms and floats support religious statues of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion and Mary, the Mother of Sorrows. The outfits worn by the cofradía penitents are reminiscent of the uniform that in the United States is generally associated with the Ku Klux Klan. This may (be) somewhat confusing and disconcerting to the first time visitor. I must admit that the very first time I witnessed this event I was startled by these costumes and was taken aback until I learned that the origin of the robes and “capirotes” (as the caps are called) goes back to religious fraternities that had their beginnings in medieval Spain. The use of this costume by the Ku Klux Klan just illustrates the degree to which the participants in the Klan are misled.
Note from BW of Brazil: Continuing the international flavor of this event, we find that children in Spanish cities such as Cordoba and Seville also don the hoods and robes and join their parents in the procession where the Easter Holy Week is known as Semana Santa. And while recognizing how similar the images seem to KKK rallies of 1950s United States, the This is Money website reminds us that “the processions have nothing to do with the KKK”. Even so, the outfits and procession fire are sure to send a chill down the spine of anyone is the US who isn’t familiar with it. But speaking of the similarities, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were the KKK that was in fact influenced by this procession. And as we will see, participants are in fact imitating Roman soldiers who were in search of Jesus Christ, as such, in a way, the appearance is still a bit morbid. (Images below are taken from several processions over the past few years)
A 270 year tradition 270 the Fogaréu procession crowd gathers in Goiás Velho
About 20 thousand people followed 40 farricocos, characters dressed in colorful robes and pointed hoods, representing Roman soldiers, in search of Jesus Christ, on the stone streets of the historic city.
By Renato Alves
The City of Goiás re-lived early on Thursday (24) the oldest tradition of the state. At the turn of Wednesday (23) from darkness to the Holy Thursday, the touch of fanfare left everyone on alert in the town, known as Goiás Velho, which is located 320km away from Brazil’s capital city, Brasília. At midnight, the Procissão do Fogaréu (Fogaréu procession) began. City lights went out and gave way to torches which lit an outdoor show, which gathered about 20 thousand people in the cobblestone streets of the city of 24 thousand inhabitants.
The tradition of 270 years was staged by 40 farricocos, characters dressed in colorful robes and pointed hoods, representing Roman soldiers. They left the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte (Church of Our Lady of the Good Death) in the main square of the city considered a World Heritage Site by Organização das Nações Unidas para a Educação, a Ciência e a Cultura (UNESCO or Organization of United Nations for Education, Science and Culture)). Accompanied by the crowd, they went looking for Jesus Christ, on a 2km route.
Barefoot on the stone streets, farricocos went to the stairs of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary), which symbolizes the place where the last supper was being held, but Jesus was not there. The faithful then marched toward the Igreja de São Francisco de Paula (Church of San Francisco de Paula), symbolizing the Jardim das Oliveiras (Garden of Olives) described in the Bible. On site, the sound of a bugle, the arrest of Jesus was decreed, represented by a banner of linen painted by artist Veiga Valle.
Source: Correio Braziliense
I was shopping in a Brazilian Market in Florida, U.S.A., on 3/24/16 when I saw this on the television. As a Black American from the America South, I was very uncomfortable with the imagery, the K.K.K. marched this way. (I incorrectly assumed that perhaps Brazilians felt this way.) Glad to know the proper history and context. I feel much better!! Look forward to coming to Rio Summer Olympics.
Glad to clear up any misconceptions!