I’m currently writing from Rio. JEALOUS?! You should be. Anywho, we’ve been here for the last few days and I figured I would save my thoughts on (insert corny/superlative nickname here) for next week!
The Capital of Happiness:
Prior to arriving in Salvador, I’d heard from more than a few people that the city was “Brazil’s Capital of Happiness.” Thus, it should come as little surprise that Salvador was UBER-HIGH up on my list of Brazilian cities to visit and there was about a 0.0% chance that I wasn’t going to head to Bahia before November 30th. Known for its strong Afro-Brazilian culture, regional cuisine, chillllllled out population, capoeiristas, beaches, and one-of-a-kind Carnival (yes Cariocas…Carnival exists outside of Rio), Salvador certainly should be a contender for Brazil’s “Capital of Happiness” award (although I think Rio might have something to say about that…more next week). In any event, I now present to you some thoughts, reflections, and pictures from five splendiferously relaxing days in Salvador, BAHIIAAAAA…
The hub of Afro-Brazilian culture:
Because of its coastal location and agreeable climate, during the Colonial Era Salvador developed into Brazil’s main port of entry for African slaves and the center of the Brazilian sugar industry. Brazil was the main destination for West African slaves (receiving almost 40%) being brought across the Atlantic and as such Salvador, as Colonial Brazil’s largest city and economy, processed more slaves than any other city in the New World. Moreover, over time Salvador developed into a center of slave resistance and in 1835 had the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil (called the Malê Revolt). Thus, given its massive importance in the development of Afro-Brazilian culture and consciousness, it is little surprise that today one finds a population that is immensely proud of its African roots.
Throughout my time in Salvador I couldn’t help but be impressed by the extent to which Africanity is celebrated. When you walk around the city you find museum after museum dedicated to the preservation of African culture and history. You also find a distinct pride in Afro-Brazilian cultural customs such as Capoeira (the unique Afro-Brazilian dance/martial art that developed in Salvador…see picture above) and Candomblé (did you read my post a few months ago????). Indeed, overall, many of the things I observed over the five days really gave me a sense of just how important Salvador is to Afro-Brazilian pride and the development of a unique Afro-Brazilian culture.
Yet, despite all Salvador’s positive contributions to Afro-Brazilian consciousness, I do have to say that the city still remains racially segregated both physically and socio-economically in a way that I have seldom seen in my life (South Africa still probably takes the cake on that one though). Despite being over 75% “Brown or Black,” when you go into the city center or eat out at an expensive restaurant the people become undeniably more fair skinned. Also, it was rather thought-provoking (and horrifying) to see the extent to which both whites and non-whites alike make powerful assumptions about who you are and what you can afford based on your skin color (Donovan and Nino were constantly typecasted by locals for being non-white). Thus, although the city is certainly characterized by a distinct pride in Afro-Brazilian culture, there is no doubt that Salvador’s persistent issues with race left me a bit disheartened…
The Doctors arrive…
This past week Donovan and I picked up two new members to our Brazilian expedition. Doctor D and Doctor C (aka Mom and Dad) arrived in Salvador on Saturday morning and we’ve spent the past week+ touring Brazil with them. While their Portuguese may not be the best (alright they can’t speak a lick), they have certainly adjusted better to the craziness of Brazil than expected. Here are a few highlights from our time in Bahia, Bahia…
- Beaches: Yes please. Salvador has some aawwwwessommme beaches. Check +++.
- Andy the Seafood Man: I think my parents were pleasantly shocked by my newfound ability to eat (and enjoy) seafood. Salvador (much like the Amazon) is one of those places that you just miss out on way too much if you don’t eat seafood. Bobó de Camarão (“Shrimp Bobó” in English)…Get. In. My. Belly.
- Accommodations: Ha. How I’ve moved up in the world over the past week. Staying in a 16th century convent-turned-hotel (that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site)…decent. Between the nightly bed turndowns and spectacular setting, our accommodations in Salvador made me feel about 1 million miles away from my hammock in Santarém. Some seriously needed R + R.
- They Don’t Care about Us: The music video for Michael Jackson’s uber-controversial song “They Don’t Care about Us” was filmed in the historic center of Salvador. Pretty cool to see. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNJL6nfu__Q. Look familiar?
- The historic center: Really kewl. Between the cobblestone streets and beautifully colored buildings, Salvador’s historic center has a certain magic about it. However, it was rather sad to see more than a few old buildings falling apart by the seams.
- Turtle Sapien: I am now convinced…my dad may very well be the link between turtle and man. We traveled to a turtle sanctuary (which proved to be a strange combination of turtle extinction awareness and…turtles trapped in cages) last Tuesday in Praia do Forte, and it was impossible not to notice Doctor D’s strange affinity with his shelled brethren. See picture at the beginning of post. Hilarity…
- Olympics: Thank GOODNESS for traveling. I’ve watched 100% more Olympic coverage that I would have had I been in Santarém. Yet again, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are the stories of the Olympics for me. Pretty amazing when you think about it. That said, it never ceases to amaze me just how many ridiculous Olympic sports are out there…between shooting and synchronized swimming…you really have to ask yourself…when is competitive eating going to become an Olympic sport…OR BLOG POSTING FOR THAT MATTER?!
- 81 days on…the strike at UFOPA continues. Apparently little progress has been made between the two sides and the strike won’t be ending any time soon. When I arrive back in town on August 17th, it’ll be interesting to see if I have to endure another month or two of purposelessness.
- I would just like to wish a happy belated birthday to Tom Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. The greatest QB the world has ever seen turned 35 this past weekend and he said that he plans to “keep playing for a long time.” Please do.
- I’m getting seriously into reading The Onion. I think some good, solid satirical news will be seriously useful when I return to the ‘Rèm. I lol’d about one billion times when I read their story this week about Phelps Drowning…
- A city without equals: Rio. More next week.
That’s all I have for now. I think I deserve some sort of Olympic medal for this blog post. Despite spending the last 24 hours with a high fever and sore throat, I knew I couldn’t let my loyal readers (“loyal readers”…ha…let’s not kid ourselves) down. Get ready to hear all about Rio next Monday. Have a good week!
Um forte abraço,
P.S New Facebook album was published last Friday. Check it outtttt!