Boa Morte – "Good Death" – is an odd name for a sisterhood that one can only join after the age of 45.
The sisterhood is one of the strongest present-day links to the era of slavery in Salvador de Bahia. Slaves were treated like animals when alive and could look forward to being buried like a dog when dead. The Boa Morte association was set up in 1823 at the Barroquinha Church in Salvador by freed female slaves to offer a good funeral to deceased members, and also aimed at saving money to buy the freedom of enslaved sisters.
The sisterhood, which only accepts members from African descent, is based in Cachoeira, a city in the hinterland of Bahia that is known as the Reconcavo. This ancient land of sugar cane that once relied on slaves for its harvests and its agricultural richness was the foundation of Salvador's wealth. It has now diversified into tobacco, fruit and spices, remaining one of the most productive areas of Brazil.
Originally linked to the Catholic Church, the sisterhood is now closer to candomblé, a polytheistic religion that originated among enslaved West Africans who were brought to Brazil during the slave trade. However, its members still celebrate the Feast of the Assumption every August, dressed in their distinctive white costumes. The three-day event in Bahia includes a prayer vigil, a festive mass, two processions, as well as samba dance performances in honor of the Virgin Mary. The group's church has a small museum and its members also run a tailoring shop to provide work for disadvantaged women.
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