São João Festival, concert

Jeep in the rhythm of Pernambuco’s São João (Saint John's Festival)

The brand is a supporter of the "biggest and best São João festival in the world" in Caruaru, one of the most enchanting Brazilian fiestas

June 10, 2019 - The firewood is already set up in front of the houses for the traditional bonfires to be lit. The colorful little flags take over the streets. The smell of corn on the cob and of "macaxeira" cake - as the Pernambucans call the cassava or manioc - floats through the air while the last colored ribbons are being sewn onto the dresses. Fireworks can easily be seen soaring through the sky. There is no doubt: São João has arrived! It’s one of the strongest cultural manifestations in Northeastern Brazil, where the biggest of all the celebrations takes place in Caruaru, Agreste of Pernambuco. This year, the "biggest and the best" festival in the world has Jeep's support, as a continued investment in the state's culture.

Caruaru - 190 kilometers from the municipality of Goiana, where the Jeep Automotive Plant is located - is the main and largest pole of Pernambuco’s São João festivals, earning the title of "The Forró Capital" - a popular dance with typical Northeastern rhythms. "To be a part of this celebration demonstrates our respect for what's most genuine in Pernambuco. It's not only a way of inserting a brand, but it is our way of relating to the context we have been part of since 2015", said FCA CEO for Latin America, Antonio Filosa.

The party, a tradition that dates back to the 1960s, is celebrated in the month of June with a lot of dance, music and a typical gastronomy, mostly based on corn, since June is the harvest season.

Sculpture with a Jeep vehicle on top

Born in Caruaru, junior Jeep selection analyst Rafaella Albuquerque, 35, does not remember exactly when she started coming to the São João festival. "I was very young, I must have been about three years old when my mother put on my checkered dress and made tiny dots on my face as if they were freckles, a typical characterization at this fiesta", she recalls. It could not be otherwise; the Saint John's festival is her favorite festival. "It is a moment that unites with a warmth that is not found anywhere else, a warm atmosphere to celebrate with the family", she describes, stressing that until today, her family has gathered around the traditional bonfire to celebrate the date.

Among the peculiarities of São João, Rafaella remembers an unusual tradition. "We have the custom of making the typical foods on a giant scale, such as the largest couscous, the biggest canjica (a typical sweet dish associated with winter festivals), the biggest pamonha (similar to corn tamale) and the biggest peanut brittle in the world. And it all starts on the streets. These are ideas that only the Northeastern can pull from a hat.

The passion for the June festival comes along with the pride of the Northeastern culture. All this appreciation, both for her and her family is passed on to the younger ones. "I have no children yet, but my passion will certainly be passed on to them. And we make sure my nephews know about it. It's important not to lose this culture and for the bonfire to remain lit within each one of us".

Children participating in the event

With years of tradition, São João de Caruaru takes place on the grounds of the Patio de Eventos Luiz Lua Gonzaga, where the official Jeep stand was installed. The space was adorned with the art of the master woodcutter from Pernambuco Jota Borges, who created all the characteristics of the party.

In Vila do Forró, where restaurants and stands are decorated with typical props such as colored flags and balloons, you can find canjica, pamonha, corn on the cob (roasted or cooked), corn cake and sweet rice for sale – to name only but a few of the typical food items sold at the festival. It is there, also, where local musicians perform and the traditional Junina square dance takes place, which is a collective dance backed up by a trio of instruments - accordion, zabumba (bass drum) and triangle - and by several couples dressed as the tradition demands.

 A musician during the event

With such liveliness, Caruaru becomes a meeting point during the festival. Every year, between 1.5 million and two million tourists from various parts of the country circulate throughout the city during the festival's 30 days. With so many people willing to dance "forró", the city's Development and Creative Economy Secretariat, João Melo Neto, says that the city's economy improves significantly. He calculates that during the month of June, the event moves R$ 200 million and generates about 7 thousand direct jobs. "Maybe São João is more relevant to the local economy than Christmas," he guesses.

João believes that, for the Northeast, São João is the greatest representation of popular culture. "I think even more so than Carnival, since this event is shared with states like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. But São João only happens here in the Northeast. "Faced with the relevance of the celebration and what it represents for the people of the Northeast, he says that having a brand such as Jeep supporting it is a source of pride. “As a native from Caruaru and Pernambuco, to see Jeep participating and understanding what this regional manifestation is all about is exciting because a dialogue with the population through culture is very genuine".

Words: Isabela Alves

Pictures: Janaína Pepeu, Arnaldo Félix, Marketing

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