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Boi de Máscaras [Bull Masks] of São Caetano de Odivelas

The bull mask revelry, according to local residents, began in the 1930s with the creation of two bull groups, Boi Faceiro and Boi Tinga.

Boi de Máscaras [Bull Masks] of São Caetano de Odivelas

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Last update: 30/04/2015

By: Júlia Morim - N/I

Known as the land of crab and good fishing, the city of São Caetano de Odivelas, located in the northeastern Pará just over 100 km from the capital, Belém, is home to a unique cultural event: the boi de mascaras (bull masks), also known as boi-tinga, referring to group of the same name.

The bull mask revelry, according to local residents, began in the 1930s with the creation of two bull groups, Boi Faceiro and Boi Tinga. The former, a little older, initially had the characteristics of Boi-Bumbá, later being influenced by the latter, which from the beginning did not follow the narrative structure of the Bull story. In addition, the use of masks came about from its foundation by fishermen, who used them as a disguise so as not to be recognized. Hence the name.

Besides the bull, which is not necessarily the main figure, other characters are part of the event. Pierrots, big-heads (cabeçudos), buchudos, cowboys and various animals are part of the merriment. The Pierrot, a common figure at the Venice Carnival, wears a mask with a long nose, overalls and headdresses. The big-heads, or preás, are characters with huge heads, disproportionate to their bodies. The big-head masks are made of paper maché, and covers the actor, who wears a black or blue suit, to their waist. Their arms extend from this head. The buchudos have no specific clothing and can be many things – dinosaurs, zebras, fairies or witches – as long as they are funny. Besides the use of masks, what differentiates the bull of São Caetano de Odivelas from other bull events is the fact that he is a quadruped – two actors, called tripas (entrails), give it life – and there is no pre-established plot. There are no rehearsals or competitions. The merriment is marked by spontaneity, playfulness and improvisation.

The bull mask revelry begins a week before the official June festival calendar with the “letter delivery” (carteado) when the event organizers deliver a letter to the city houses requesting authorisation for the presentation. Upon authorisation, the home owner will have their address included in the bull’s route and will undertake a certain payment for the performance to happen in front of their home. These donations and the actors themselves fund part of the expenses along with the orchestra, and keep the event alive. In order to raise funds and ensure the survival of merriment, some groups schedule presentations in June in other towns (ALMEIDA; SANTOS, 2012). Although the event period is traditionally the month of June, in recent years the bull groups have begun to participate in Carnival.

Currently there are several bull groups, the most famous are Mascote and the aforementioned Tinga and Faceiro. The revellers choose their favourite bull group to perform at their front door, which is decorated to welcome them. The bull’s visit is so looked-forward to that food is prepared and everyone dresses up in their nicest clothes. The groups’ roaming and presentations usually begin at 4pm, ending at about 11pm. According to locals, there didn’t use to be a finishing time (ALMEIDA; SANTOS, 2012).

Leading the procession is the Bull Mask itself, composed of pierrots, big-heads, buchudos, cowboys, animals and bull. Arriving at the house, it finds the orchestra performing its music. All around, arranged facing the house, are the people accompanying the procession of revellers. In between songs is the symbolic fight between the cowboy and the bull, big-heads and big-heads executing movements with their own choreography and the pierrot flirts with single women attending the exhibition. When the last song is played, the Bull says goodbye and moves to another “delivered letter” house or street, continuing to play. (ALMEIDA; SANTOS, 2012, p. 132)

Leading revellers and actors with the sound of marches and sambas, at the end of the parade, the bull escapes.

Recife, 28 May 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2015.

sources consulted

ALMEIDA, Ivone Maria Xavier de Amorim; SANTOS, Jorge Luiz Oliveira dos. É dia de folia: o folguedo do Boi de Máscara em São Caetano de Odivelas/PA. Revista de Ciências Sociais, Fortaleza, v. 43, n. 2, p. 117-136, jul./dez. 2012. Available at:  
<>. Accessed: 24 maio 2014.

BOI dança em São Caetano de Odivelas. Diário do Pará, Belém. Available at:
<>. Accessed: 24 maio 2014. 

SILVA, Silvia Sueli Santos da. Tradição e contemporaneidade: o corpo e os processos de aprendizagem na dança do Boi de São Caetano de Odivelas. Ensaio Geral, Belém, v. 1, n. 2, jul./dez. 2009. Available at:
>. Accessed: 24 maio 2014.  

SÃO Caetano evoca a tradição dos bois no carnaval da cidade. Agência Pará de Notícias, Belém. Available at:
<>. Accessed: 24 maio 2014.


how to quote this text

Source: MORIM, Júlia. Boi de Máscaras [Bull Masks] of São Caetano de Odivelas. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.