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Iemanja, beach, festival

On February 2, the beaches of Montevideo and Punta del Este become packed with people making offerings to Iemanjá, the goddess of the sea. In Montevideo, the festival is centered around Playa Ramírez, stunningly lit up by thousands of candles glowering in hand-dug pits.

Derived from African origins and the Umbanda religion, the tradition was brought over by slaves but is now enjoyed by all. Iemanjá is a symbol of motherhood, her name coming from the Yoruba words “Yeye emo eja” meaning “Mother whose children are like fish,” representing her fecundity and reign over living things. Devotees wear blue for the ocean and white for health, and take part in ceremonies involving drumming, dancing and chanting. Flowers, glasses of wine and sacred fruits, especially watermelons, are placed in small boats, and locals line up patiently to be purified before taking their boats out to sea.

If you want to (respectfully) take part, you can buy candles, flowers and fruit from behind Playa Ramírez, then find a spot to dig your pit. The ceremonies begin in the afternoon and continue late into the night; the best time to go being just after sundown. You’ll have to bring your own boat, though.



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By Emma Jones

Emma Jones, 30, is from London, and recently spent nine months enjoying travelling and writing in South America.�Her favourite...

11 Feb 2011


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