Celebrating Women as Political

women sThe sisters in traditional head scarves

Festa de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte - Cachoeira, Brazil

Click here to listen to Paola talk about this festival

This is an excerpt from the book Celebrating Women.

Brazil had four times as many slaves as the United States, and, in 1888, became the last country in the world to end slavery. Abolition finally occurred in part, thanks to freed slave women in Bahia, leaders of Candomblé (West African) religious groups.

Candomblé was illegal, so they met and networked as members of a lay Catholic sisterhood.  They disguised their deities (orixa) as Catholic Saints and disguised their ideas in Catholic doctrine:  slaves who died free had a “good death” (Boa Morte) just as Mary had a “good death” thanks to her bodily assumption.

The Sisters of Boa Morte earned money to buy slaves’ freedom, used their social and spiritual power to give sanctuary to escaped slaves, and helped them reach quillombos (back country communities).

Today, their descendants, who are still leaders in Candomblé congregations as well as members of the Sisterhood of Boa Morte, continue the fight against racism in Brazil and celebrate the Festival of Our Lady of the Good Death.

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