Venezuelans flock to coastal town for festival of John the Baptist

Caracas, Jun 24 (EFE).- Around 1,000 people gathered Wednesday in the Venezuelan coastal town of Naiguata for a traditional festival of St. John the Baptist that has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Felix Orlando Corro, 72, whose family have been custodians of the ceremonial John the Baptist image in La Guaira state since 1854, told Efe that as recently as the 1970s, the celebration extended from June 23 until July 5, Venezuela’s independence day.

But now the celebration begins on June 22 with the erection of the altar, followed on the evening of the 23rd by drumming that continues into June 24 for the Mass and the ceremonial procession of the John the Baptist image through the community, with stops at many homes.

“That saint protects the town, there is not much Covid-19 here, none of that,” Corro said, adding that the festival attracts people from neighboring states such as Bolivar, Portuguesa, and Trujillo.

His kinsman, 58-year-old Alberto Bonilla, said that the tradition originated among African slaves on colonial-era plantations.

“We have custody of St. John since 1954. Today we are once again celebrating his day, walking the streets of our town, with our people, and our faithful,” Bonilla said. EFE sc/dr

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