On New Year’s Day the Procissão no Mar, the “Sea Procession”, sees statues of the seafarers’ protectors, Nosso Senhor dos Navegantes and Nossa Senhora da Conceição, carried in a decorated nineteenth-century boat across the bay from the old harbour to the church of Boa Viagem, on the shore down from Bonfim.
The boat leaves at around 9am from Praça Cairú, next to the Mercado Modelo in Cidade Baixa, and hundreds of schooners and fishing boats wait to join the procession as the statues’ boat passes: you can buy a place on the phalanx of boats that leaves with the statues, but the crowds are thick and if you want to go by sea you should get there early.
On the shores of Boa Viagem, thousands wait to greet the holy images, after which there’s a packed Mass in the church, and then Nossa Senhora da Conceição is taken back by land in another procession to her church near the foot of the Lacerda elevator. The celebrations around both churches go on for hours, with thousands drinking and dancing the night away. The spectacle, with the bay as an enormous backdrop, is impressive enough – participating in it is exhilarating.
“Procissão de Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes” by Prefeitura de Porto Alegre Pref. POA. CC2