Without a doubt, the most famous event in Cachoeira  is the three-day Festa de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte. Held every year August 13–15 in honor of the Virgin Mary, it lures visitors from all over Brazil  and the world, and for this reason, if you want to stay in Cachoeira, you’d better reserve a hotel months in advance.
The Irmandade da Boa Morte (Sisterhood of Good Death) is one of the oldest examples of the survival of African rituals in the New World. The religious order was founded in the early 19th century by elderly black women of Cachoeira, whose official mission was to pray for the dead and provide decent funerals for members. Less official was their commitment to the preservation of African traditions and to the liberation of slaves, by helping them escape or raise money to purchase their freedom.
Although it’s ostensibly a Catholic order that worships the Virgin Mary, most of the women have roots in Cachoeira’s Candomblé terreiros,  and many of their rites feature allusions to orixás and include elements of African religious rituals. These days, the sisterhood has become a symbol of Brazilians’ black heritage and culture, and both the Bahian government and Afro-American tourists have contributed to help the otherwise poor women maintain the sisterhood’s headquarters and activities.
Although there were once more than 300 sisters, today there are only around 20. Rules dictate that to become a member, women must be black and at least 60 years old. Currently, the oldest irmã is over 100.
On the first night of the Festa de Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, the sisters — dressed in their traditional white ruffled blouses and petticoats, turbans, shawls, and layers of necklaces fashioned out of gold, cowrie shells, and multicolored beads signifying orixás — carry a magnificently decorated figure of the Virgin throughout the streets of Cachoeira. Following a mass in their chapel, they serve a ritual white meal — fish, rice, onions, potatoes, and wine — to guests.
The second night’s proceedings are more solemn as the sisters commemorate the death of the Virgin by parading through the streets in black skirts and shawls and without jewels. The third day — the Feast of the Assumption — is the most festive day of all. The sisters, dazzling in red skirts and shawls, jewels in full array, honor a new statue of the Virgin at an altar awash in fragrant flowers.
Following a final mass, another procession, and a banquet, the proceedings take a turn for the more jubilant (and African) as the sisters gather in a circle in front of the Boa Morte headquarters to perform samba-de-roda, dancing to the accompaniment of drums and guitars. Once the rest of the population joins in, the festivities continue until the break of dawn.
Should you miss this unforgettable celebration, try to make the Festa de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, which is held around the middle of November and features the washing of the steps of the Capela de Ajuda as well as plenty of traditional samba-de-roda music and dancing.