RELIGION

'Congada' in Brazil mixes African roots, Christian rites

  • In this Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a girl prepares to place a veil on a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. According to local legend, the ritual was first performed by Black slaves in the 1800s in Brazil where the Catholic icon, Our Lady of the Rosary, is associated with the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

    In this Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a girl prepares to place a veil on a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. According to local legend, the ritual was first performed by Black slaves in the 1800s in Brazil where the Catholic icon, Our Lady of the Rosary, is associated with the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, women carry statues of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Our Lady of the Rosary represents the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother, and St. Benedict corresponds to the African divinity Ossaim, a god of nature. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

    In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, women carry statues of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. Our Lady of the Rosary represents the African divinity Yemanja, or Sea Mother, and St. Benedict corresponds to the African divinity Ossaim, a god of nature. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows Leonardo Barbosa, captain of the Mozambique Sacred Heart of Mary brotherhood, during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The brotherhoods are groups comprised of African-Brazilian families who organize the annual celebration as a way to maintain their ties to African religious traditions.  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

    This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows Leonardo Barbosa, captain of the Mozambique Sacred Heart of Mary brotherhood, during the annual Afro-Christian Congada celebration in Catalao, Goias state, Brazil. The brotherhoods are groups comprised of African-Brazilian families who organize the annual celebration as a way to maintain their ties to African religious traditions. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)  (The Associated Press)

Pulsing drums reverberate through the streets of this central Brazilian city as thousands of people in colorful garb march, dance and shimmy their way toward Our Lady of the Rosary church.

The procession known as the "Congada" is an annual tradition that takes place on the second Sunday of October and combines elements of Roman Catholic and African traditions, a testament to the mixing of cultures, religions and races in Latin America's largest nation. It was initially performed by groups of black slaves brought to Brazil to work on plantations during Portuguese colonial rule.

Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of the area, has historically been connected to Afro-Brazilian religious groups. And around the country, images of the Virgin Mary are associated with the African divinity "Yemanja," or Sea Mother.

During the "Congada" many groups dress and dance according to their role in specific reenactments, such as the coronation of the king of Congo. Men in turbans, white-clad children dressed as angels and dancers waving brightly colored ribbons make their way to the church to pay homage to the virgin.

After Mass the groups return to the streets, this time to visit people in their homes — a symbolic way of fulfilling promises, or vows, made to Our Lady of the Rosary. When night falls they make their way back to the church for another Mass, held outside.