October 31, 2020

Iemanjá, the goddess who fills Uruguayan beaches with offerings

The Uruguayan summer is to enjoy the beaches and spend time in the sun; Montevideo, with a coastal promenade that runs from end to end the city, gathers thousands of people who bathe in its waters or just sit down to drink mate every weekend.

On February 2 all this changes and the focus is already on the sea and on a goddess who is revered by different religions of African origin and, in Uruguay, have a large number of faithful.

Iemanjá, as she is called in the South American country, is the “universal mother” of all these religions and is considered the “lady of navigators.”

The African cult was born in Nigeria, although it later expanded into America and the Caribbean with the arrival of black slaves during the invasions of Europe.

Its fusion with indigenous beliefs and the Catholic population resulted in the Umbanda religion, which was born in 1908 in Niterói (Brazil).

This special day for this whole community has already become a massive event of Uruguayan culture and thousands of people participate every February 2 making offerings, taking photos or simply watching how each ritual takes place.

Ramirez Beach, located in the south of Montevideo, is the epicenter of this festival because in front of it is the statue of Iemanjá, which today receives offerings, candles, photos or kisses and prayers from those present.

“On February 2, our lady of the navigators, Iemanjá, brings together all the religions that are African-American and has become popular because most understand that she has something to thank or just out of curiosity but they want to participate,” Natalia Rouco told Efe , member of the Afroumbandismo Verde collective.

From this movement it is sought that the offerings made to the river are biodegradable and do not contaminate nature since the preaching of this religion is contrary to it.

In addition to the goddess, the protagonists of this day are the offerings that are varied and prepared in different ways to be taken to the water.

Plants, flowers, food, fruits, candles and even jewelry are offered to Iemanjá as a way of thanks or to make some kind of order.

While many carry things in their hands to throw them directly into the water, most of them use small boats of light blue foam and decorated with flowers and the figure of the goddess.

Each offering must be prepared and for that reason the religious are separated into small groups of no more than ten people where they place the objects, place them in the center of a human round and there they begin to make dances to the rhythm of bells and songs difficult to understand .

This is not taken lightly since each of the gifts has a ritual of about half an hour in the sand before being taken to the water.

La Ramírez is an ideal beach for this party because it is low tide and believers can walk hundreds of meters with their gift while they pray until they reach a place where the offering can navigate on its own.

The day that was accompanied by thousands of other people who were simply enjoying the sunny Montevidean afternoon on the beach, also mixed with the carnival since the Summer Theater is located a few meters away.

Murgas, African music, rites, bathers and hundreds of tourists all lived together this unique party in which gratitude, peace and African-American culture take the city for a while.

The event was extended throughout the day so that this goddess, whose open-arms statue stares at the waters of the Río de la Plata, is honored once again by her thousands of faithful.


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