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Dona Santa (Queen of Maracatu Elefante)

Date Born.:

Queen of maracatu

Dona Santa (Queen of Maracatu Elefante)

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Last update: 02/04/2018

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Maria Júlia do Nascimento, or Dona Santa, the most famous queen of Recife maracatus, was born on 25 March 1877, in pátio de Santa Cruz, Recife, Pernambuco.

Before being queen of Maracatu Elefante where she became famous, Dona Santa or ‘Santinha’ participated in the ‘congadas’ (a dance of African origin) of the Verdureira and Miçangueira Carnival troops, was queen of Maracatu Leão Coroado and founded Troça Carnavalesca Mista Rei dos Ciganos, which later became Maracatu Porto Rico do Oriente.

Child and granddaughter of Africans, she had the rhythm of the ‘zabumba’, a kind of African drum, and the “baque virado” of maracatu in her blood.

When she was the queen of Leão Coroado, she married João Vitorino, abdicating her throne after her husband was chosen to reign over Maracatu Elefante, founded, according to various sources, in 1880.

Dona Santa was the queen of Maracatu Elefante for sixteen years, a time in which the group was at its greatest peak. When she became a widow, she took over the direction of the group, however was only crowned on 27 February 1947.

Elefante performed on the Monday of Carnival. Dona Santa paraded in a European-style dress from the 19th century, made of silk, velvet and satin, decorated with sequins, beads and golden thread. She carried a metal sword which she used to bless her “subjects”, as well as a sceptre, crown, queen’s robe, thin-heeled shoes, earrings, rings, bracelets and brooches. Her favourite colours were yellow, blue, white and green.

A traditional and very respected figure, Dona Santa reigned for many Recife Carnivals and was the subject of various researchers, for example Katarina Real from the United States.

Dona Santa passed away in Recife, in 1962, at 85 years of age.

The Joaquim Nabuco Institute for Social Research, nowadays the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, celebrated the centenary of the birth of Dona Santa, in 1977, with a sample of her rich collection, donated to the Institution and today can be found at the Museu do Homem do Nordeste (Museum of Northeast Man).


Recife, 13 August 2004.
Updated on 24 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.
Updated on 02 april 2018

sources consulted

BRITO, Ronaldo Correia de. A rainha sem coroa. Continente Multicultural, Recife, ano 3, n.  26, p. 76-77, fev. 2003.

DONA Santa, Rainha do Maracatu Elefante. In: O MUSEU do Homem do Nordeste. São Paulo: Banco Safra, 2000. p. [Foto neste texto] de Lula Cardoso Ayres, entre os anos de 1935 e 1940. Recife, Pernambuco (23x16cm).

OLIVEIRA, Gilka Corrêa de; SILVA, Maria Regina Martins Batista e. Exposição centenário de Dona Santa. Recife: IJNPS, 1977.

SILVA, Maria Regina M. Batista e. Dona Santa: rainha do Elefante. Recife: Fundaj, Inpso, Centro de Estudos Folclóricos, 1976. (Folclore, 2).

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Dona Santa (Queen of Maracatu Elefante). Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.