On Saturday, March 3 we arrived at Parintins, a city of about 100,000 situated about 500 miles up the Amazon, about halfway from Manaus to the ocean.
The reason we stopped here was to see the Boi Bumba (“beat the bull”) show that is unique to this town (more on that later), but we went ashore a couple of hours before showtime to look around the town. We were told that there wasn’t much here, and that was correct. We saw the usual fruit & vegetable stands, a few interesting houses (not many). It seems that the primary means of transportation here is by motorcycle or bicycle, and there were a number of bicycle powered rickshaw type vehicles, which seemed to be especially for tourists (we walked).
There were some unusual statues of animals (made of concrete, I think), and we found these phone booths shaped like the bulls that are at the center of the story of the Boi Bumba show (“oi” is what Brazilians say when they answer the phone; my grandmother would have been right at home).
There were also some interesting mosaic sidewalks, but utterly unlike the others we have seen.
Then, there was the Boi Bumba show. Every June (at the end of rainy season) Parintins puts on a Boi Bumba Festival. It lasts for a week or 10 days, and culminates in 3 days of performances of the Boi Bumba show. People come from all over Brazil for this festival, and the population of the town about triples, with many people sleeping on hamocks in river boats crowded around the harbor.
Boi Bumba apparently grew out of a Portuguese settlers’ tradition of annually giving thanks for their new homeland, and the story (involving the killing & resurrection of a prize bull, and other stuff too complicated to follow) is based upon an old legend revived for this celebration in the 19th century. At some point prior to World War I, the local Montagues & Capulets (actually named the Monteverds & the Cids) developed a rivalry in putting on this celebration, and to this day the town is divided into two Boi Bumba teams, the red team and the blue team, who present competing versions of the story.
What we saw was a one hour fragment of the full show, presented by the red team. It involves music and dance, a single one-hour performance with no breaks. A single singer sang for the entire hour without letup, accompanied by a percussion heavy band. The dancers were mostly young people, many appearing to be about high school age, and the show was filled with extremely colorful costumes, with lots of feathers, & floats & props. The dancing was very energetic, with lots of high stepping and arm waving. We thought the dancing had a bit of a hip-hop feel to it, but it was all highly coordinated like a Broadway musical. The whole effect was quite awesome, particularly when you remember that this is being done by the young people of a town of only 100,000. (Many beautiful young girls in this small town, which made me think of Lake Wobegon, since it appears that all the girls are prettier than average). There are a few pictures below which give you only a rough idea (I have a couple of short movies which are better), since my camera didn’t do too well indoors with the lights out & the dancers moving, and it ran out of memory card about half way through. But I will start with a couple of pictures I took before the show of some costumes waiting to be worn.
After the show we returned to the ship, VERY hot & sweaty (from the dismal climate, not the show) and partook in a Brazillian Barbecue held out on deck. The town set off fireworks then, either as a farewell or as a celebration of our departure, I don’t know which. And we headed for the sea.
Before I close this off, however, on Sunday afternoon, March 4, we crossed the Equator heading out of the Amazon. This was our fourth crossing, and the ship staged a pretty silly ceremony, in which crewmembers who had not crossed the Equator before this cruise were initiated before King Neptune (played by our travel guide, a proper Englishman), who required that they be covered with garbage (literally, old food) & dunked in the pool. This apparently is descended from a British naval tradition, in which sailors were thrown overboard to initiate them the first time they crossed the Equator. Since I had to watch this, you do too.