Mocambique and Congada in Brazil

Moçambique and Congada are two of the dance traditions that make up the rich folklore of Brazil. They are found in the main in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais which have some of the strongest connections with Europe.

Why am I interested

The appearance of the dances, especially the Moçambique, is so close to the English Morris Dance that to my non-academic eye there must be a connection. Some points of similarity which spring to mind are the formations used, the costumes, the use of sticks and the way they are used. Much of what follows comes from visits to the area over the last 17 years. Some of the details come from a booklet published in 1980 by the Brazilian National Folklore Institute. A lot of the content of this booklet was based on work done up to 30 years previously. However speaking to the people who are still dancing confirms the main parts of what is in the booklet.

Europe to Brazil

The Ceremony

The whole thing is religious and part of the dancers faith. They dance to honour São Benedito who is the patron saint of the blacks. The majority of the sides have a banner which is carried by the King or Queen who is usually an older respected member of the group. This depicts São Benedito or occasionally Nossa Senhora De Rosario. The banner forms the focal part of the performance. At the start the dancers form into two lines and the banner is paraded around by the Captain of the group. Each dancer kisses the banner and makes a blessing.


The dancers then turn out from the set and put on their bells. They then perform several dances each of which consist of a sung verse and refrain accompanied by a stick clashing. All the way through the dancers are stepping on the spot. At irregular intervals there are figures in which the lines cross over or pairs move up and down set.

The People

The group is lead by a the Master (Mestre) who has responsibilities for everything that happens in the group. The King and Queen (Rei e Rainha) look after the banner and lead the group when it processes. They also take the banner to the alter to be blessed when the group go into church. The Captain keeps order within the dancing arena. There are dancers of all ages with sometimes members of 3 generations dancing together

There are several rules which the Mestre imposes on the dancers. They must all be members of the catholic church and regularly attend mass. They must not drink.

The Music


The music has 3 parts. The tune comes from usually an accordion and a guitar which struggles to make itself heard above the percussion which can be 4 or more drummers on everything from bass drums to tambourines. These are always at the top of the group next to the banner. In addition the group sings. It usually takes the form of a verse and refrain with the Mestre leading.

The groups I have seen which are the most European in style come from an area of São Paulo State about 90 to 200 kms north east of the city of São Paulo in the Vale do Paraíba do Sul. This covers the towns of Caçapava, Taubate, Cunha, São Luís de Paraitinga, Aparecida and Guaratingueta. At one time the centre of the coffee industry but also on the old routes from the mining centres of Minas Gerais to the coast. With the improvement in transport some of these towns became isolated and their traditions have been preserved. This is especially true of São Luís de Paraitinga which had its main access road made up less than 30 years ago. Here traditions have carried on because they are part of the life of the area not because they have been "preserved"

When I first visited these towns in the early 1980's I could imagine how the early folk dance collectors must have felt seeing traditions being danced in context. In addition to Moçambique they preserve a range of other traditions including Giants and Hobby Horses.

The closely related style of dance commonly called Congada is also common in the area. This style is much more widespread across the whole of Brazil with many hundreds of groups in the south of Minas Gerais. Some of these go by the name of Moçambique which can be cause of confusion, however they all appear at the same festivals and share the same objectives.


Moçambique and Congada can be seen at various times during the year, There are several large festivals when groups from a wide area meet together.

Festa do São Benedito

Easter Monday

Guaratingeta , SP

Festa do São Benedito

Monday after Easter

Aparecida, SP

Corpus Christi

Thursday usually early June

São Luís do Paraitinga, SP

 Festa do São Benedito


???, MG


This page has been put together by Pete Thomas of East Kent Morris Men based around Ashford, Kent in the UK. Any comments or further information you might like on Moçambique or Morris Dancing email me on

São Benedito was born a slave near Messina, Italy. He was freed by his master and became a solitary, eventually settling with other hermits at Montepellegrino. He was made superior of the community, but when he was about thirty-eight, Pope Pius IV disbanded communities of solitaries and he became a Franciscan lay brother and the cook at St. Mary's convent near Palermo. He was appointed, against his will, superior of the convent when it opted for the reform, though he could neither read nor write. After serving as superior, he became novice master but asked to be relieved of this post and return to his former position of cook. His holiness, reputation for miracles, and his fame as a confessor brought hordes of visitors to see the obscure and humble cook. He died at the convent, was canonized in 1807, and is the patron of Blacks both in Brazil and in the United States. Sometimes called the St Benedict the Moor but this is a misnomer originating from the Italian il moro (the black). His feast day is officially April 4th but Brazil celebrates him on a variety of days depending on the area.

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