Southern Brazil Marches in Memory of Nightclub Fire Victims

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise stated.]

A week after more than 230 young people lost their lives in a horrific nightclub fire [en] in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria, thousands gathered across the state of Rio Grande do Sul to pay homage to the victims.

Several cities organized public gatherings to remember the victims and support their families. These gestures of solidarity included marches, memorial services, vigils, and demonstrations.

In Santa Maria only days after the blaze, large groups gathered in front of the nightclub in memory of the victims.

Demonstrators show messages of support.

Demonstrators show messages of support. Photo by Cassiana Machado Martins. Used with permission.

Blogger Pequena Lou described in a January 29 post on her blog Menina Louca the solidarity march from Saldanha Marinho square to the gymnasium where the bodies held:

Na praça havia um mar de gente. Conversavam pouco. O máximo que saía era um “e aí” que obtinha como resposta outro “e aí” na mesma entonação. Registrei mais abraços e olhares tristes do que conversas, bandeiras, cartazes e protestos. Ondas de palmas vinham e se iam; não sei o que aplaudiam. Balões brancos foram soltos, mas eles voltavam e estouravam. Ouvi murmúrios diluídos do Pai Nosso e  ouvi como cantavam (mais de uma vez) o hino gaúcho com fervor:

Mostremos valor constância
Nesta ímpia e injusta guerra
Sirvam nossas façanhas
De modelo a toda Terra

There was a sea of people in the square. They hardly talked. The most that could be heard was a “how's it going”, which would be answered by a “how's it going” in the same tone. I saw more people hugging and looking at each other sadly than talking or protesting. Waves of applause could be heard at times, but I don't know what they were applauding. White balloons were released into the sky, but they'd fall back to the ground and end up popping. I heard people chanting Our Father and heard people singing (once again) the gaúcho anthem with fervor:

We must show the value of constancy
In this unjust war
May our deeds serve
As a model to the entire world

Funeral of the victims in the cemetery of Santa Rita in Santa Maria.

Funeral of the victims in the Santa Rita cemetery in Santa Maria. Photo by Vinicius Costa. Copyright Demotix (27/01/2013)

Candles were not lit, only white clothing was worn. (Photo: Cassiana Machado Martins, used with permission)

Marchers wear white in lieu of lighting candles in memory of the victims. Photo by Cassiana Machado Martins. Used with permission.

She concluded:

A massa branca se pôs em movimento. No trajeto, reparei que havia pouca gente nas janelas. Isso me deu a sensação de que a cidade inteira estava de branco e na rua. A massa branca caminhou até o ginásio. Lá de dentro ouvimos gritos e palmas. A massa respondeu e dispersou. Não caberia todo mundo dentro do ginásio e não era o propósito incomodar os remanescentes com a nossa presença.

The masses dressed in white began to move. On the way I noticed that there were few people at the windows and this gave me the impression that the entire city was dressed in white on the streets. The white masses of people walked until the gymnasium. Inside we heard people yelling and people clapping. Then, we left since all of us wouldn't fit in the gymnasium and it wasn't our intention to bother anyone with our presence.

On February 3, a silent vigil took place close to Kiss nightclub. According to the newspaper Zero Hora, “more and more people began to show up after a religious service in honor of the dead held in the Medianeira Basilica end, gathering about 4,000 people”.

The traditional procession of Navegantes, which marks a holiday on February 2, was made to remember the incident as well. Twitter user Irmandade Navegantes (@navegantespoa) wrote on January 29:

@navegantespoa: No próximo dia 02 de fevereiro vamos nos unir em oração, na procissão dos Navegantes, por Santa Maria.

@navegantespoa: On February 2, let's gather in prayer, during the Navegantes procession, for Santa Maria.
Porto-Alegrenses brought messages of comfort to Santa Maria. (Photo: Cassiana Machado Martins, used with permission)

Residents of Porto Alegre display messages of comfort for Santa Maria. Photo by Cassiana Machado Martins. Used with permission.

In the capital city of Porto Alegre, a march was organized on Facebook for February 3, leaving from the Arco da Redenção. The goal of the march, which attracted about 5,000 people, was to “direct positive energy and thoughts to the victims and their families”:

Não vamos parar com esse lindo grupo que se uniu em prol dos jovens que perderam suas vidas em Santa Maria!! Vamos continuar juntos, pessoal!!

We aren't going to stop with this amazing group that gathered in honor of the young people who lost their lives in Santa Maria!! We will continue together!!

Journalism student Ivan Sgarabotto mentioned on Twitter (@IvanSgarabotto) that cities from the mountainous areas of Rio Grande do Sul also participated in a memorial on February 3:

@IvanSgarabotto: Dezenas de pessoas se reúnem em Caxias do Sul para caminhada pelas vítimas de Santa Maria ->…

@IvanSgarabotto: Dozens of people gather in Caxias do Sul for a walk in honor of the victims of Santa Maria.
Balloons represent the victims. (Photo: Cassiana Machado Martins, used with permission)

Balloons represent the victims. Photo by Cassiana Machado Martins. Used with permission.

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