Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacations in Brazil pt. 4

AOG, Praia do Forte

Today we got up really early to go and see the city of Salvador de Bahia, or simply Bahia. Out of all of Brazil's cities, this one has always been my favorite- eventhough I'd never been here before. Blame Disney and The Three Caballeros.

I still remember the song the Brazilian girl, Aurora Miranda, sister of Carmen, sung during the movie: Quindins de Yaya....memories!

(Coconut Cupcakes in case you are wondering).
Even today I hum the tune now and then. Childhood is such a powerful thing.

God, how I loved that song!

And this one, the opening tune. There is something so romantic and sophisticated about it.

And today, I was going to that very same city, finally! I couldn't wait to see the old homes, the streets, the sound of the place.

We left the hotel lobby inside a large, and thank God, air conditioned bus, with the rest of the day's fellow travelers.

The tour guide, named Felix, was a local who came across as a very friendly person. He told us all about the day's events, where we would be taken, what we'd be doing, etc. After about 30 minutes of speaking, he allowed us to travel and admire the views.

I would like to say that he allowed us to do this in silence.

Unfortunately, somebody thinks that tourists must love the singer Carlinhos Brown so much that they would enjoy traveling in a bus for about an hour and a half with him and his racket playing non-stop until we got to Bahia. Wrong.

Thank God for iPods, I say.

Road to Bahia...

The road into Salvador de Bahia goes from being two lanes outside Praia do Forte, to a proper 4 line highway as we approach the city. It is called the Linhea Verde, or Green Line, and it goes all the way up to the Brazilian state of Aracaju.

Along the way the Brazilian countryside is a mixture of virgin jungle (known as the Mata Atlantica or Atlantic Rain Forest), palm trees, stray dogs, rich private comunities, and poverty.

Poor homes, half built, half painted, half lived in, dot the road all the way into Bahia.

There is a well known Spanish photographer named Dionisio Gonzalez who was inspired by this type of housing.

I think this because his work so closely resembles what I could see from the window on the bus.

I really like his work. The photograph here is one of his. It is called "Heliopolis". I find it extremly beautiful. It closely mimics the roadside homes I saw on the way to Salvador.

As the bus passes by these small towns (do three homes and a store make up a town? Two homes and a dog?) by the side of the road, which have no apparent name, I wonder what their lives must be like.

Often you can see inside their homes. Most of them have the television on. You can see the walls, decrepit as they are. Sometimes dirty.

You can see the clothes hanging out to dry. So much color, always the realm of tropical poverty, color. European wealth being so monochrome. I wonder why this is?

In some of the houses, small children are outside, playing. Some have a woman or two, sitting on a chair, guarding their home.

Perhaps they wait for their sons or husbands to return. Or their daughters. Sometimes you can make out a chicken, or a rooster.

I also saw towns peep out from the jungle. Some homes have two or three stories. Usually the third story is unfinished. It reminds me of the images one sees of Beirut, a city of once-legendary beauty, now destroyed and falling apart because of war.

So these villages, with their own conflicts with the modern world, their own wars, even if they are only social, peer out unto a road which leads to Bahia, a city, I would later find out, caught between modernity and its past. Wealth and poverty.

As you approach the great equatorial metropolis, the small towns cluster together, resembling larger towns.

Wealth also begins to seep through. It is very easy to spot.

Modern life is so innanely similar these days, we see the same things, we buy the same products. So global and boring at the same time.

The number of gas stations increases; so do a few restaurants; furniture shops.

And many pool stores with their upstanding blue monoliths as an expression of wealth and first-worldism.

Traffic also gets heavier. Modern cars are still not seen in great numbers. In fact, I have to say, most of the cars I see in Bahia are a bit old. Tattered. And pedestrian models.

No jazzy Lincolns or Mercedes are seen in great numbers (though in some neighborhoods, like Barra, Mercedes and Audis did seem to congregate along street parking lots).

Mostly VW and Ford and many many Japanese cars. Some Chevrolets; some Fiats. Our consummerist world also begins to grow as you approach Bahia.

Here and there, the stores get larger; shopping centers, though humble, pop up unannounced, with their customers as suburban furniture on a tired road.

Of course, life in this country is relative to life in Europe and the developed world. Although it may sound crazy, I do envy the space some poor people have.

Although humble, their half built homes, many with a satellite dish, are larger than my flat in Madrid. If they hear their neighbors, it is because they are on the street making some noise, not because their televisions are on too loud next door. Or the upstairs washing machine is on spin cycle.

All is relative.


Timbo said...

Would you say that poverty in Brazil is comparable too or worse than that in the deep South USA? Just wondering.

Ynot said...

I would say it is worse, especially sine poverty in the US, even in the South, is relative to poverty in other countries.

When I think of poor people in the US, it usually (not always) means their car is not new, they don't have a television in every room. Their furniture is used, or not in great condition.

Poverty in Brasil, from what little I saw, and what I've seen on documentaries, is much worse than in the deep South. Life in a favela, (shanty town), means no car, small, cramped conditions, no hope of a viable future, drugs, prostitution and crime on your doorstep, shootings (often by the police).

In any case, poverty is a pain in either country. In all countries.