Por Gustavo Penteado e Nathalia Teixeira  | Translation: Amanda Peter

In honor of the Northeastern cowboy, every June in the city of Serrita – Pernambucano, 554 km from the capital Recife, a traditional “Missa do Vaqueiro” is held. The event is considered a cultural heritage of the state and has influenced the local music style known as “sertanejo”, as well as the economy of the region. Every year, the event attracts an audience of around 50 thousand people who enjoy concerts, debates, lectures, arts and crafts, and faith.

The Mass is conducted by a priest, and the music by a popular Northeastern singer, highlighting the Northeastern cowboy and his journey of faith and difficulties suffered on the dry lands of the dessert. Cowboys who come to the Mass, watch the ceremony from their horses, and include traditional food and clothing in the celebration. They share moments of faith and tribute with hundreds of tourists that annually celebrate the traditional annual event.

Besides the religious approach, the Mass also has a political touch. It is a space to exercise citizenship values. “For local cowboys, the Mass is where they can interact with cowboys coming from different towns and have the chance to discuss their rights and morals, to be seen and respected, and to unite and ask the government to pay more attention to their needs (recognition of cowboy activity as a profession).”, explains event coordinator Thiago Câncio.

The local cowboys strive to live in the “caatinga”, a type of vegetation only found in the Northeast of Brazil. The “caatinga” its known for is temporary rivers, semi-arid climate, and irregular rain levels, which contribute to its extremely dry weather all year long. The soils of the region are dry, however quite fertile. Some believe that’s due to the cowboy’s brave essence.

Origin of one of the greatest events of faith and tradition in Brazil, the “Missa do Vaqueiro” or Cowboy Mass was celebrated for the first time in 1970, in honor of the brave cowboy Raimundo Jacó.  In 1954 he was brutally murdered in the city of Serrita. The murderer is unknown due to lack of evidence, but legend says it was one of Raimundo’s coworkers. Luiz Gonzaga (Rei do Baião), Raimundo’s cousin and the Brazilian legendary musician stated in one of is songs: “Raimundo lived a simple life, and was a man of faith, capable of great gestures”.

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