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Sairé Festival

The celebration retains the ceremonial practices of the colonial period, maintained by those responsible for the festival’s organization.

Sairé Festival

Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 30/04/2015

By: Júlia Morim - N/I

Nowadays, the battle between the Tucuxi and Pink River dolphins is the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of the Sairé Festival, held annually in the Alter do Chão district of Santarém, Pará. But it was not always so. Occurring for over 300 years, the origins of the Sairé Festival are unknown. Some say it was the way the Borari Indians, native of the region, narrated the arrival and settling of the Portuguese. Others say that the Jesuits invented it to help with the indoctrination of the indigenous people. Regardless, what can be concluded is that the Sairé is the result of contact between religious and natives and therefore full of indigenous references, such as the use of fermented manioc drink (tarubá), and Catholic ones like litanies in Latin.

In its most traditional form, the celebration retains the ceremonial practices of the colonial period, maintained by those responsible for the festival’s organization. Religious rites include corteges, litanies, maypoles, music and dance. During the procession, the Saraipora, usually an older person, takes the Sairé symbol (a shell in a semicircle with three crosses of the Holy Trinity), accompanied by followers (praying) and rufadores (who play and sing). On the riverbank, two tree trunks, one for the men and the other for the women, are collected to be raised in the square as maypoles. The collapsing of the maypoles, closing the festival, is marked by drinking tarubá and dancing.

In the 1940s, the festival was banned by the Catholic Church. After a hiatus of three decades, the residents of the region revived the celebration in 1973 after research on the dance, music and rites of the area. Previously the Sairé Festival had been of an eminently religious nature, but at that time a profane element was incorporated into it: the Festival of Dolphins (Festival dos Botos), new dances and the Espanta-Cão (Stunned Dog) musical group that began to follow the processions and litanies.

Its transformation into a folkloric festival began in the 1990s, when the festival moved from the riverbank to the Sairódromo, or Sairé Plaza, and the battle of the dolphins entered the festival. This new home, more associated with the show, attracted many young people, who left the faith-based activities to the elders. Along the lines of the Bois de Parintins battles, the festival began to receive more government investment. To attract a larger audience, the period of the Sairé moved from June to September.

With many people and much investment involved, stimulating the local economy, the Sairé Festival is today the most important celebration in the city of Santarém and the Lower Amazon region, both financially and symbolically.

Recife, 23 May 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2015.

sources consulted

BRAGA, Sérgio Ivan Gil. Manaus, Macapá e Alter do chão: imaginário, cultura popular e alguns “devaneios” sobre festas na Amazônia. In: REUNIÃO BRASILEIRA DE ANTROPOLOGIA, 26., 2008, Porto Seguro. Anais... Porto Seguro: [s. n.], 2008. Available at <>. Accessed: 21 maio 2014.

FESTA do Sairé: festival de cor, luz e muita dança. Diário do Pará Online. Available at: <
php?idnot=67461>. Accessed: 22 maio 2014.

FIGUEIRA, Cláudia Laurido. Tradição, memória e poder: Sairé, manifestação cultural reiventada – 1974 a 1996. In: SIMPÓSIO NACIONAL DE HISTÓRIA – ANPUH, 26., 2011, São Paulo. Anais...São Paulo: [s.n.], 2011. Available at:<>. Accessed: 23 maio 2014.



how to quote this text

Source: MORIM, Júlia. Festa do Sairé. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.