Festive cycle around the devotion and worship towards Saint John the Baptist
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Inscribed in 2021 (16.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The Venezuelan Saint John the Baptist celebrations feature practices and knowledge that originated in the eighteenth century in Afro-Venezuelan communities associated with former colonial estates. From the beginning, the festivities have been heavily influenced by Catholicism, but they are also rich in verbal, musical and physical expressions connected to sub-Saharan Africa. For followers, called Sanjuaneros, the celebration is a symbol of cultural resistance and freedom, and a means of remembering their enslaved ancestors. In many communities, the festivities start in early May. They are characterized by joyful drumming, dancing, storytelling and singing and by processions with a statue of Saint John the Baptist. Each community has its own form of dancing and singing. The exact dates of the festivities vary from one region to the next, but the most important dates are 23 and 24 June. On 23 June, the Sanjuaneros visit with friends and go to churches and casas (houses) of Saint John the Baptist. On 24 June, the image of the saint is baptized in the local river to commemorate the biblical event. Many devotees also go into the river to be blessed by the saint. Although the end of the cycle varies, in most places the celebrations end on 16 July. The practices and knowledge are transmitted within families and through community groups and schools.