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 ‘Fandango’ is a popular spectacle that envelops romance, dance, music, anecdotes, sayings, legends and prayers.


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Last update: 05/02/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

In the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, ‘fandango’ is a popular spectacle that envelops romance, dance, music, anecdotes, sayings, legends and prayers. It is a festival to honour sailors which takes place at Christmas time. It is also known as ‘marujada’, ‘barca’ and ‘chegança dos marujos’ (sailors’ arrival).

Fandango is a popular ‘auto’ (religious play), traditional as early as the 19th century and represents a convergence of Brazilian songs and Portuguese ‘xácaras’ (popular narratives in verse, similar to ballads), including the famous Nau Catarineta.

The spectacle takes place on a stage set up in front of a church or other open-air location chosen beforehand. The cast is made up of the ‘mar-e-guerra’ (captain), ‘imediato’ (first mate), ‘médico’ (doctor), ‘piloto’ (pilot), ‘mestre’ (master), ‘contra-mestre’ (foreman), two ‘alas de marujos’ (rows of sailors) and two ‘palhaços’ (clowns), the ‘Vassoura’ (broom) and the ‘Ração’ (food). The characters wear official Naval and mariner uniforms and sing and dance to the sound of a string orchestra (violin, viola and guitar), which may also include a small guitar and a banjo. There is an opening procession in which episodes of sea life are sung and recited. The story is basically as follows: because of a storm, a ship wanders the ocean for seven years and a day, while starvation attacks those on board. A crew is chosen to relieve the hunger of the others, but before they are dead, Our Lord Jesus Christ performs a miracle to save them by making them arrive in Spain, while the Devil does everything to stop him.

A ‘fandango’ can be watched during the Christmas period in Pernambuco, in Recife, Nazaré da Mata, Carpina and Itamaracá, and in Cabedelo, Paraíba and Maceió, in the state of Alagoas. In the South region of Brasil (São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul), the fandango is a ball, a party, where it is performed together with rural dancing, with varied choreography, that has Spanish influences.

In São Paulo it is similar to the ‘cateretê’, a rural dance from the South of Brazil. It is divided into two distinct groups: ‘rufado’ or ‘batido’, exclusive to men, measured by strong and loud foot-stomping and ‘bailado’ (ballet) or ‘valsado’ (waltzing), in which the couples drag their feet on the ground. In Paraná, it is a traditional festival of natives and fisherman from the coast of the State, where various types of ‘fandango’ are danced. Over one hundred different types have been recorded, among them ‘Anu’, ‘Xarazinho’, ‘Xará-grande’, ‘Queromana’, ‘Chamarrita’, ‘Andorinha’, ‘Caranguejo’ (Crab), ‘Coqueiro’ (Coconut Tree) and ‘Pega-fogo’.

Recife, 15 July 2003.
(Updated on 28 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.



sources consulted

AZEVEDO, Fernando Corrêa de. Fandango do Paraná. Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, Campanha de Defesa do Folclore Brasileiro, 1978.

BRANDÃO, Théo. Autos e folguedos populares de Alagoas: o fandango. Maceió: Imprensa Oficial, 1957. Separata da Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de Alagoas, 1957.

CÂMARA CASCUDO, Luís da. Dicionário do folclore brasileiro. 3.ed. rev. e aum. Brasília: INL, 1972. 2v.

SANTOS, José Batista dos. Pernambuco histórico, turístico, folclórico. [Recife: s. n.], 1989. p.349-350.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Fandango. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.