Lady of Snow Festival

August 5th is the birthday of João Pessoa and it's an official holiday in the city.

Icon of Our Lady of Snow
Icon of Our Lady of Snow

Despite the fact that it doesn't snow in Brazil, the holy patron of João 

Pessoa is the "Our Lady of the Snow". This was João Pessoa's first name when it was officially founded back in August 5th, 1585: "City of Our Lady of the Snow" (Cidade de Nossa Senhora das Neves).

 

According to the legend, a childless noble italian couple chose the Mother of God as the heir to their fortune. The Pope Liberius suggested them to pray for Holy Mary to give them a sign. The Virgin Mother appeared to the couple (and the Pope) in their dreams and told them it would snow on the crown of the Esquiline Hill. There they should build a church in her honor. It was considered a miracle because it snowed in Rome on August 5th.

Photo: Sergio Fonseca
Photo: Sergio Fonseca

Between the 1st and the 5th of August there is a big party downtown, with live bands and a fair with classic attractions like merry-go-round, ferris wheel, among others. There's cotton candy, pop corn, caramelized apples, hot dogs, drinks, etc.

 

There's an attraction that reached cult status at the event: the tent of Monga, the gorilla-woman. This is a very old show that uses a rudimentary trick of mirrors to give the audience the illusion a woman turns into a gorilla in front of their eyes.

Photo: Lia Amancio
Photo: Lia Amancio

Monga appears first as a young, attractive woman in bikini inside a cage. She performs a dance while a narration in off describes what is about to happen. By the end of the transformation, somebody in a gorilla costume breaks out the cage and "attacks" the audience.

 

Everybody plays along as if panic had spreaded, until the "trainer" comes to tame the gorilla, brings it back into the cage and Monga turns into a woman again.

This show is very outdated which is why it got cancelled some years ago, but it's so popular and already considered part of the celebrations, that the inhabitants organized an online petition asking the comeback of Monga. The Gorilla-Woman is since then a fixed attraction of João Pessoa's birthday party.