Fiesta of the Black St. Benito

Black St. Benito, Fiesta of the

December 29
This fiesta is celebrated by a number of locales in the state of Zulia, Venezuela, and is especially popular in Bobures. The streets are decorated and people adorn the windows of their homes with white flags two days before the fiesta begins, and the events of December 29 are supervised by the chimbángueles or vassals of the saint. After early morning mass, the chimbángueles put St. Benito's statue on a litter and surround it with flowers. They then carry it through the streets while performing an unusual bouncing kind of dance in which they continually move forward and backward to the accompaniment of seven drums, each of which sounds a different tone. They are followed by groups of women who shake green branches in the saint's face. Throughout the long procession, St. Benito's image is sprinkled with perfumes and presented with drinks of homemade whiskey.
When Africans first arrived in Venezuela, they formed brotherhoods to help them preserve their ancient religious practices. Today's chimbángueles are direct descendants of these brotherhoods, and their members are divided according to a rigid hierarchy into chiefs, captains, major-domos, and slaves.
CONTACTS:
Consulate General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
7 E. 51st St.
New York, NY 10022
212-826-1660; fax: 212-644-7471
www.consulado-ny.gov.ve
SOURCES:
FiestaTime-1965, p. 189