Heathen Gala

Genuine Pará naturals endure the Círio de Nazaré procession, celebrated every second week of October. Saturday night many seize the opportunity to jump out of the closet to the sound of carimbó, played at the Chiquita gala, the traditional sexual diversity gathering, which takes place in downtown Belém. However, Brazil’s original gay pageant – the only pageant ever included in a calendar for religious celebrations – gathers not only people from the Amazon region. Innumerous people that travel to Pará looking forward to a spectacle of faith are impelled to join the heathen gala.

Our Lady of Nazareth – Nazinha, as the locals usually call her – parts from her worshipers in front of the stage where drag queens with their breasts showing convert the pilgrims into sinners of the flesh. A waste of penitence? No, the Pará inhabitants believe that the sacrifices endured during the procession cleanses their souls enough to allow them to indulge in extravaganzas of the flesh.

Saturday the procession cord attracts mostly young men and women. The Pará students form a human cord, huddling in hopes that Nazinha will perform the miracle that years of careless studying did not accomplish. They rapidly dismiss the pain in their hands and feet to waddle to the carimbó in a ritual exalting diversity. Tourists also attend –they are informed about the gala during the nautical procession.

“I came here to see the cord procession, but I don’t want to miss the Chiquita gala,” confesses Carolina Youri, from Espírito Santo state.

The Golden Deer election.

There’s no avoiding the event. Even the lesser merrier folks stay for the gala, just to take a peek at it. After all, the gala begins where the procession ends. The Chiquita gala goes on into the night, finishing only at the election of the Golden Deer. The award is as tribute to intellectuals or artists who have contributed in any way to the protection of sexual diversity. The trasladação of the holy image ritual ons Saturday marks the opening of the Chiquita gala. It’s as if the Catholic Saint bestowed her blessings upon the gay parade, to the anguish of conservative Marians.

Several Belém Catholic priests frown at the Chiquita gala. Others regard it with sympathy. They do not support the profane ritual, but justify it as an alternate means for upgrading religious tourism in the region. The Catholic Church’s support to the gala results in incidents that could be considered contradictory. Ladies wearing Holy Mary printed T-Shirts, rosaries around their necks, and holding burnt candle stumps watch the drag queen pageant. Targeted with fowl language, the ladies shyly watch the pageant from the sides of the stage.

The gay audience dismisses whatever pudency. They exchange passionate kisses and cheer every time the seminude drag queens shake their asses at the Borboleta do Mar band musicians who play the carimbó. The Marian portion of the audience boos, but the puritan ladies won’t budge. Everyone is expecting the outcome of the Golden Deer election. Valter da Silva seems upset. Possibly just another curious Catholic attending the gala, if it were not for the sandals with artificial strass gems and his excitement watching a drag queen wearing bullhorns saying obscenities onstage.

“Our Lady of Nazareth, thank you for bringing me here,” says Valter, kneeling and covering his eyes with his sandals.

Crying copiously, Valter is succored, but says he is okay. He states that he rode his bicycle from Ananindeua, 12 kilometers from Belém, to watch the Chiquita gala. Better yet, the Círio de Nazaré procession.

Competing with the Church

Without the usual heavy makeup or the bull horns on his head, the gala host introduces himself – Eloy – Eloy Iglesisas. The Chiquita gala has brought him notoriety. A documentary film about the gay pageant called “As Filhas da Chiquita,” roughly “Chiquita’s Daughters,” was screened at the Mix Brasil film festival. In one sequence, Eloy goes to the Administrative Police station in Belém to attain the necessary license for the gala. The artist states that the Chiquita gala and the religious festivity coexist harmoniously. He imputes the contradiction between gay parade and the religious procession to the monopoly the Catholic Church tries to establish. Eloy also states that the general public’s involvement in the gala is an uncontrollable phenomenon.

“The Círio de Nazaré procession is unquestionably a part of Pará’s culture, and more than merely a religious festivity. The celebrations of the Círio de Nazaré in all of Pará’s municipal districts feature different regional characteristics. The festivity has always been marked by a heathen facet. “The Auto do Círio (a theatrical performance) illustrates this very well,” Eloy adds.

The Auto is a theatrical performance enacted by Federal University of Pará Drama students.

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