Divine Linguistic Crossings in Brazil

Friday is Oxalá’s day in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Many dress in white in his (and sometimes her) honor and do not eat anything with Dendê oil (Acarajé, Muqueca). Some eat white fish (no meat). Candomblé religious practitioners told me that dressing in white on Friday’s is also a tradition that goes back to the Malés and the strong Islamic influence on Bahia. In Spanish we all know the Arabic influence on the language is strong. There is the word “ojalá”: if Allah wishes, Allah willing, God willing, si Dios quiere. In Portuguese (though they also use the word “tomara”), the word is the same as the Orixá honored on Fridays in a practice that overlaps with Islamic traditions: Oxalá. Ojalá in Spanish, Oxalá in Portuguese. So when people say “hopefully” in Brazil, they are also using the Orixás name and Arabic words at once.

Oxalá statue on the coastal highway:

Oxalá is associated with o Senhor do Bonfim/Jesus Christ. Every year the church is cleaned in Oxalá’s name:

The procession to the church in Cidade Baixa, Salvador (I remember a similar scene in Havana on el Día de las Mercedes):

White flowers for Oxalá. Here his greeting, from Yorubaland into Brazil, is “Épá Babá”:

And the turbans (also worn by the Bloco Afro, Filhos de Gandhi):


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