April 23 is a remarkable day for Quintino, a neighborhood in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, which houses the Igreja Matriz de São Jorge. On that date, the saint warrior day.
With the closure of the main thoroughfare in the region (Clarimundo de Melo), cars and buses give way to dozens of stalls and several vendors scattered through the gates of their own homes or supported by some wall. The most common is to find cocadas, barbecues and pastries, but souvenirs of the date, such as ribbons and mugs, are also sold.
The huge flow of people starts at dawn and is silenced only by the fires that announce the dawn mass, at 5 am. But this year’s tradition will be broken: because of the coronavirus, a party is postponed.
In the last few days, restrictive measures to prevent the Covid-19 from advancing in Rio de Janeiro have already suggested that the São Jorge party was threatened, mainly because the crowding of people at events is prohibited – for at least another 15 days, according to the last decree (of March 27) of Governor Wilson Witzel.
Masses at the church in Quintino, for example, are being held online, in live videos. Yesterday (1), the church’s Facebook page issued a statement, in which the feast of the holy warrior is postponed (to August or September).
“São Jorge did not overcome evil by his strength, but with the strength of God”, recalled, through text message, Father Dirceu Rigo, parish priest of the Mother Church of São Jorge since 2013, who uses the saint as a lesson for this time. “He teaches us: if we want to beat this pandemic, we must unite and put God first in our lives.”
Usually, the party for São Jorge in Quintino changes the routine of those who live in the neighborhood. The cross streets take on the appearance of a main street, since the traffic of Clarimundo de Melo, the main street in Quintino, is displaced to them.
The noise of the bus engine in the quiet streets of the neighborhood contrasts with the speakers that echo hits, mainly in the voice of Zeca Pagodinho, such as music and.
Throughout the morning, from the 22nd to the 23rd, the neighborhood church is packed, waiting for the dawn mass, celebrated by Father Dirceu, at 5 am. To the sound of the fires and the sound of the horn, thousands of devotees of São Jorge stay inside and outside the church (these, watching the dawn through screens).
Masses take place throughout the day, celebrated by different priests, including Archbishop of Rio, Dom Orani Tempesta, who celebrates the 10 am mass. At the end of the afternoon, the procession goes through the streets of the neighborhood. Thousands of people dressed in white and red, with their candles, prayers and songs accompany the fire engine, which bears the image of São Jorge, but also from the terraces, many residents attend the procession.
April 23 has feijoadas and barbecues to celebrate St. George’s Day. Although the patron saint of the city of Rio is São Sebastião, since 2001 the date (April 23) has also been a municipal and, since 2008, a state holiday, which helps to bring people together in the neighborhood.
A resident of Quintino for over 20 years, Luciana Costa, 39, spends São Jorge’s day with friends and family on her terrace every year.
In addition to the saint’s festivities, the 23rd is an important day, marked by the reunion with people I haven’t seen in a long time.
Having to postpone the traditional meeting, Luciana understands the moment we are in. “It is having patience so that, soon, we can have the party, even if it is out of season”, he adds.
São Jorge, in Umbanda, is Ogum and, because of that, it is not only Catholics who spend the day celebrating. Jamile Rodrigues, 18, who has lived in Quintino since she was born, has fond memories of April 23, especially her grandmother, who died in 2010
Somehow, I feel connected to her, who was passionate about the São Jorge procession.
Umbandista, Jamile, in the midst of the pandemic, regrets the moment of social isolation. “We are not going to have the Ogum tour, in which we can be connected with our orixá, but we are going to stay at home, each one firming his thoughts”.
São Jorge is here the protector of the game’s pointers of the animal, blesses samba wheels, wholesalers, bar counters, travels along the suburban train tracks, populates the imaginary of full moons and defeats the perrengues of those who kill dragons daily everyday life to survive and celebrate.
Book, by Luiz Antônio Simas
This is what the historian Luiz Antônio Simas explains, in the book, by the Civilização Brasileira publisher. And, in times of fears, uncertainties and isolation, protection against the “perrengue” called coronavirus can be defeated by the group: good hand washing, use of gel alcohol, staying at home and also faith in São Jorge.