Yemanjá, the Goddess of the Sea.

Every February 2nd, hundreds of thousand Uruguayans arrive to the beaches to celebrate the goddess of the Sea – Yemanjá (or Imanja). The city flow gets altered, and the coastline it’s transformed by the celebration, which includes music performers, as well as a high number of worshipers that come to the to sea to share their offers to Yemanjá. As I learned this year, there seems to be as well, a very high number of photographers. [Every time I was taking a photograph, I had to inspect my frame and recompose, to eliminate a fellow photographer from the image].

Celebration of Yemanja, Montevideo, Uruguay. – Images by Martin Herrera

Yemanjá is an African orixá from Umbanda religion, represents the strength of sea water. Yemanjá Ogum, born in the river in Nigeria, moved across the seas to America and gave his younger sister Oxum, care of the freshwater seas. It is a very important goddess, it represents motherhood and childbearing. When a child is born is tended by Oxum, and will not be cared for by Yemanjá until the power of speech is developed. The fishermen greet the goddess when they enter her kingdom, they kiss their hands and rub them into the water. [].

Many of the people I came across, are not full Umbanda practitioners, but rather followers of Yemanjá itself. Yemanjá likes sweets, perfumed, fruits and all sorts of jewelry. In exchange, she grants to those that she deems worthy. Offerings are usually offered in small to large size boats constructed with varied degrees of devotion and dedication. Word has it that if your boat is returned to shore, then Yemanjá did not like your offering and will not grant you your requests. Andrés, a recovering drug addict that I met on the beach, went in search of healing and a job. It was his first time reaching out to Yemanjá. Before the night was over, he got a call back from a job request he had posted several weeks back. He was exhilarated.

Clara and I decided to make our offering as well. After all Yemanjá represents motherhood. So to complement all of our more scientifically advanced approaches, we thought that some divine guidance could not hurt.