Carnival: Parade Around Exu Becomes Hope in Rio – 30/04/2022 – Daily Life

Saint Celino de Omolo’s father, 57, noted that people speak the name Exo with fear in their voices, as if an Oryxa messenger was a taboo or threat. This scenario, he says, began to change at dawn last Sunday (24), when the Acadêmicos do Grande Rio entered the Marquês de Sapucaí.

During the show, the association raised the deity’s name and won the first title in its history. According to Bai Celino, fear was beginning to give way to respect.

“Ordinary people felt more comfortable talking about Exu. Before the show, they were scared, as if asking, ‘Do I worship Satan? And in society people talk about him with mouths full of pride.’”

The pai de santo lives in Duque de Caxias, a municipality in Baixada Fluminense where Grande Rio was born in 1988. For religious leadership, the plot was a gift to the city and to religions of African origin.

“The show couldn’t have had a different outcome. Exu dominated that moment with all his charm, love and magic. The show was intimidating,” he says, adding that the community needed this clarification about divinity.

It is often associated with the form of Satan in Christianity, an association used by many to disparage African-based religions and people who worship Oryxas.

The devout says, “EXO was demonized and misunderstood. The show demystified the view many people had of it.” “Exo is actually the messenger, he is the carrier of information from the astral plane.”

Dismantling prejudices was precisely one of the goals of the Grand Rio. “The plot and the school’s triumph have many levels. The first is to deconstruct the idea that Exo is the Christian devil,” says historian and anthropologist Vinicius Natal, 35, who has worked on plot research.

The researcher says, however, that the plot was resisted by sectors outside the school. “Some conservative groups oppose it, because they don’t understand the plot. They put Exu in the ancient association with Satan. But these opinions only show the importance of the plot and talk about Exu in all places.”

If there was resistance outside of Greater Rio, the tribute was very well received within the assembly. Vinicius explains that the plot was a request from the school itself and gained strength after the 2020 Carnival.

At that time, the tricolor was the runner-up with a plot about Joãozinho da Gomeia, the most famous Bai de Santo in Caxias. Already in the investigation, the school’s creation team, led by carnival artists Leonardo Bora and Gabriel Haddad, hit the hammer and decided to celebrate Exu at the next carnival.

“We started the research project soon after, which was done not only through books, but through interviews with components of the school, the Axé communities and the black movement,” explains Vinícius.

“Bring Exu on the show is a response to the intolerance and saying that all religions should be respected. The victory culminates in a discussion about the intolerance that the school directs in the city, state and Brazil.”

Mãe Conceição d’Lissá, 61, is familiar with violence stemming from religious prejudice in Caxias. She says she had five attacks; In one, he was shot while he was at home.

The last episode occurred in 2014, when criminals set fire to the dam where Terreiro is located. Because of the damage, she had to keep the place closed for a year.

“It’s like we’ve stopped being citizens, rights holders. It’s impunity that makes you feel so helpless,” says the devout, who has experienced post-traumatic stress over the attacks.

The municipality in which Grande Rio was born already collects issues of intolerance. In 2021, the CPI on religious intolerance, made in the State Legislative Assembly, received 37 cases from Baixada, of which 19 (51%) were in Duque de Caxias.

Also according to data obtained by CPI, the city has about 300 terreiros, which is the largest concentration of 13 municipalities in the region.

The city of Caxias says it received 30 complaints of religious intolerance last year. The municipal government, in a statement, said it fights all kinds of prejudice and provides social, legal and psychological assistance to those who suffer acts of religious violence. In addition, he says that he gives lectures in schools with reflections and clarifications on racism, homophobia and religious intolerance.

Despite prejudice, Mãe Conceição says Candomblé is her life and that she couldn’t hold back her emotions when she saw Exu’s tribute at the Sambadrome.

“The carnival and samba were our screams for freedom and rights. It was a cry of resistance and a return to existence. EXO went to the street and everyone had to see it as it is, not the way they want it to be whatever,” he says. “We hope it will be a turning point so that our culture and our religiosity are respected.”

One of Rio’s major religious leaders, Papalao Ivaner dos Santos, says the title of Grand Rio is a collective achievement.

“It is a victory for Brazil, not only for religions of African origin. It is an affirmation of diversity and the fight against hatred,” says one of the panelists for the Committee to Combat Religious Intolerance (CCIR).

“I hope that this Exu hub will open the way not only to greater Rio, but also to democracy, the secular state, and diversity.”

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