Once upon a time, there was the pregnant wife of a farmer. She felt like eating the tongue of an ox and made her poor husband kill the most prestigious and beloved bull of the farm. Facing the punishment of the landlord, the farmer sought help from the village’s priest. His advice was that the entire village had to organise festivities so grand that it would bring the animal back to life.

For over a hundred years the people of Parintins have been competing for the most artistic and happy spectacle in order to make the bull resurrect. Today this competition is known as the Festival Folclórico de Parintins or Festival do Boi-Bumbá (which is the name of the certain kind of music).

IMG_1799good-4

The annual festival of the bulls is the 2nd largest in Brazil – only the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro counts more participants. For the last week of June the small town of Parintins swells up to its double, streets are bustling with locals, Brazilians and international visitors. Everyone comes to see the three-day-long competition and hopes for a seat in the large Bumbódromo. This open air stadium was built especially for this purpose and holds up to 35.000 people.

The division of the town dates back more than a hundred years, but the festival has only been organised for about 35 years. In order to make the rivalry safer the competition was moved to the stadium and pinned down at a certain time of the year.

IMG_1670good-1 IMG_1943good

During my recent trip to the Amazon the Amazon State Government and Amazonastur invited me to take part in one night of the festivity. After a 40 minute flight we arrived at the tiny airport of Parintins. Considering that the boat-trip from Manaus takes about 20 hours one way, this was definitely a time-saving alternative; yet many Brazilians prefer to get to Parintins by boat and spend their nights in a hammock on deck.

Long after dark we made our way to the Bumbódromo. People surrounded our bus from all sides, there was no coming through so we had to walk the distance to the stadium. It was the final night of the festival as well as the last of the Confederation Cup – Brazil was just about to defeat Spain. Streets were bustling with people, public screening venues bursting with soccer fans, no-one seemed to be able to decide what to focus on. By 8pm it was absolutely clear who would win this race. Inside the stadium the first team entered the stage – the crowd exploded.

IMG_1758good IMG_1880good-5

The competition was fought between two teams – the blue Caprichoso and the red Garantido. The division used to be geographically, but nowadays you can choose for yourself – or rather your family chooses for you. As many as 3 to 4 generations stand side by side, respectively dressed in red or blue, dancing and cheering for their team. The excitement for the festival manifested in the entire town – houses were painted in red and blue and even phone booths were shaped like bulls.

Each team gets 2.5 hours on every night night to convince the audience and the anonymous jury that they can reanimate the dead bull. And they do this by their every means: never-ending drum and Boi-Bumbá music, hundreds of befeathered dancers, artistic costumes and choreographies, impressive parade floats and spectacular interludes.

IMG_1747good-2 IMG_1886good IMG_1906good

Our little group was lead into a private box within the blue section. The crowd went crazy whenever their team came on the scene. Upon entering the stadium (seats are districuted on a first come first serve basis, so people start lining up from early in the morning) everyone gets a bag with several cheering instruments. During the performance dancers leading each group  show the crowd which one to use and how. Adding to the hundreds of Caprichoso dancers on the stage this makes the spectacle even bigger. The complete half of the stadium is fighting side by side for their victory. On the opposite side the red Garantido fans sit still and wait until it’s their turn. Negative behaviour causes penalties for their own team.

IMG_1785good-3 IMG_1813good

What I found most interesting – besides the impressive floats – were the costumes of the fans. Men wore the funniest hats and T-shirts in all shades of blue, while many women were dressed in white wearing beautiful headpieces or simply covered their heads in feathers. If I ever come back, I will take my time to prepare and do the same!

Soon enough I was overwhelmed by the loud music, the busy stage and the excited crowd. While the people of Parintins where still celebrating the final day of their festival, I fell into a deep and satisfying sleep dreaming of colourful Boi-Bumbá-dancers and the resurrected bull.

IMG_1897good IMG_1925good

Want to see the festival for yourself next year? Make sure to book transfers and accommodation early enough as the village fills up quickly. TAM and GOL both fly from Manaus to Parintns, boat tickets and accommodation can be booked via ManausBooking. Don’t want to sleep on a boat? Check out the Amazon River Resort Hotel, which is close to both the airport and the stadium. The easiest way to tickets for the stadium’s boxes is to book a complete package with a travel agency (for a list of agents click here). However the seats at the stand are free, all you have to do is line up and be patient!


This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!