Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 10:50:30 -0400 (EDT)...
Subject: Re: flow!
two brazilians wrote me in response to your posting-- that is infinitely cool, or Otimo! as they say here...
recent adventures-- i found out that the institute where I study used to be a front for CIA intelligence gathering during the cold war when the US was paranoid that Brazil would go communist. To this day this Brazil-United States Cultural Institute serves to indoctrinate rich Brazilians into the wonderful world of commercial Americanism, the colonialism of the American dream and the magic of ENglish language hanging out in a favela this weekend-- a slum community where the people are poor but the street life is rich-- every crumbling house you past has different music blasting, and the little girls practice their choreographed dances that we would consider dirty, but here is quite normal. naked babies, goats, darkened old men sitting on the curb drowning in cachaca-- sugarcane alcohol. where all the kids are brown but their dolls are white, or pukey flesh-toned bulbous plastic. was interviewing mothers with a neighborhood health inspector. the bodies i've seen here will haunt me forever. Men with overdeveloped ripped upper bodies, walk with shoes on their hands, their deformed legs dangling like puppet props behind them, blackened toe nails. limbs that were broken and never healed because health care is so inaccessible to the poor-- now they carry an arm with two elbows. in the favela, groups of young men set up tables where they sit playing dominoes till it gets dark or till they get a job. kids as young as seven will work- selling apples or gum or just begging in bus stations, passing a card around that says Peco por ajuda para comprar feijao e arroz (asking for help to buy beans and rice) and everyday more private land that goes unused is invaded by a militant land rights group of landless field workers. despite the fact that they've been massacred by paramilitary forces (mercenary squads hired by the rich landowners) they still invade and set up camps and schools, and are really the only force of progressive change in thuis country-- the largest catholic country on earth! I was given a rosary and taught to say hail mary in portugese by a blind favela woman who told me that even though I am jewish, she still is going to pray for me! friday i am going to Salvador, Bahia where 80% of the people are black, and AFrican culture survives today in t he form of numerous street and professional drumming and dancing groups, tearing hot spicy comida, and afro-brazilian religion called candomble. IN candomble ceremonies, drummers beat trance-inducing rhythms and the initiates, clad in all white whirl and trample the temple floor, as african gods descend into their bodies and they smoke cigars and blow thecurative smoke into the faces of attendees seeking spritual guidance. After the ceremony the initiate remembers nothing of the trance, it has been the god's body and the god has used it to bring the live religion to the people still practiving it. fascinating.
i can't say i like it here though. in fact, I'd love to come home right now. as you experienced in honduras, the third world sux. and while the vivacity of the culture and the music and the religion t hat keeps people sustained here is joyous and redeems my beliefs in the vigor of humanity and life on earth, sometimes i just want to have a hot shower, wake up without mosquitobites, and feel safe walking down the street. I miss peanut butter too.
but I will be glad that I had this experience here on the other side of
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 10:56:34 -0400 (EDT) From: Carew
Subject: two more things
AND if you post that last message that i wrote, can you ask people to give me contacts in Salvador, Bahia-- I'm looking for people to hang out with or a place to stay!