Every year, followers of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and Umbanda religions gather on beaches in Latin America to pay tribute to Iemanja, the queen of the sea. Originally from the Yoruba people of West Africa, Iemanja was imported to Brazil hundreds of years ago by slaves and is also known as Yemoja. Often depicted as a mermaid and syncretised with the Virgin Mary of the Catholic Church, she is said to be able to cure infertility in women.

Iemanja Brazil Candomble Umbanda Yoruba
Devotees participate in a celebration in honour of Iemanja at the beach of Rio Vermelho in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Every year, worshippers dress in white to celebrate Iemanja by singing and dancing around a statue of the goddess set up on the beach. They make gifts of flowers, letters and beauty products for the sea goddess, who they believe will bless them in return. The gifts are put inside little boats and sent out into the ocean for Iemanja, who is also the patron deity of fishermen and shipwreck survivors.

In this gallery, we look at celebrations of Iemanja in Salvador – the former centre of Brazil's slave trade – and in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.