Grounding Tradition: The Geological and Archaeological Underpinnings of Contemporary Brazilian Pilgrimage Stories

Faculty Mentor(s): 
Candace Slater (Spanish and Portuguese)
Student Apprentice(s): 
Zachary Wiley

Centered in the arid backlands of Brazil, the present-day pilgrimage to Juazeiro do Norte is remarkable not just for its size, but also for its intensely popular quality. The great majority of pilgrims are poor Northeasterners who make the often arduous journey to honor Padre Cicero Romao Batista, a Roman Catholic priest who incurred the wrath of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in 1889. Today, the Church’s newfound eagerness to “rehabilitate” if not to actually beatify the priest has created a very different context for the unofficial rituals, miracle stories, and graphic depictions that surround the devotion. Yet, the narratives and practices that surround this journey remain deeply rooted in a dry and rocky land that was once an immense inland sea/lagoon where fossils now abound. What is the role of landscape in a culture on the move in many different ways? This question is the focus of the project.

The apprentice assisted in the recording of narratives and in organization and display of material collected by the research collective.  Wiley spent six weeks in Santana do Cariri and took the lead in development of a web page for the museum in which narrative materials are displayed.