On July 2, 1823, Bahian fighters drove the Portuguese out of Brazil and definitively secured Brazil’s independence. Outnumbered by Portuguese soldiers, Bahians of mostly African and Native descent came together and still managed to fight towards victory. Today, Bahians celebrate in the streets with music and parade the image of the Caboclo, a symbol of the Brazilian people and representing the indigenous roots within the racial mix of Brazilians. Bahians also commemorate the bravery of independence heroes and heroines such as Maria Quitéria, who disguised herself as a man and valiantly fought as one of the best on the battlefield; and Maria Felipa de Oliveira, an Afro-Bahian woman who led a squadron of 40 armed women on the island of Itaparica and set fire to fleets of Portuguese ships.
Festa Junina continues with the celebration of São João (Saint John the Baptist) on June 24 all the way until June 29 with the celebration of São Pedro (Saint Peter). It is a state holiday throughout Bahia and, typically, baianos travel to the rural small towns for festivities as it is a celebration of the countryside with forró (country style music), quadrilha dancing (similar to square dancing), and bonfires lit for the summer solstice (“winter” in Brazil). The most popular celebrations are in the Recôncavo cities of Cachoeira, Santo Amaro, and Santo Antonio de Jesus. Orixá Xangô, the deity of fire and thunder, is syncretized with Saints John and Peter and is celebrated with the jumping of the bonfires and venerated for peace and justice.
Festa Junina (June Festival) starts off with the celebration of Saint Anthony that commences on June 11 until June 13 when Bahians celebrate at the Santo Antônio Place at the far end of the Pelourinho neighborhood. This saint became very popular to women because he is considered to be be the “matchmaker” patron saint between men and women. People attend church services, follow street processions, and distribute bread to the poor. Around Santo Antônio Place, vendors sell typical Bahian food and musical performers add to the celebration. In Bahia, Saint Anthony is syncretized with the orixá Ogum, the orixá of iron, metalwork, technology, and war and also known as the one who clears pathways and removes obstacles. On this day feijoada, the favorite dish of Ogum, is offered with other offerings to ask for another year of protection against the ills of the world and to remove all obstacles along life’s paths. Ogum is respectfully greeted with shouts of “Ogunhê!”