How Brazil Celebrates Easter

Yes, Easter. I’m a lil’ late on my Easter article but (since I write articles for other sites) I sometimes have to be. 

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Despite the 25% drop in proclaiming oneself Catholic since the 1970s, Brazil boasts the largest Roman Catholic population in the world (with 123 million followers). Easter, as one of the main Catholic holidays, is therefore largely celebrated in a land that also happens to host one of the wildest parties in the world (you know the one).

Easter, or Páscoa in Portuguese, falls on the day after the culmination of Holy Week, which also marks the end of Lent. Since many institutions and businesses allow for an extended weekend, many Brazilians spend the holiday either traveling for the sake of traveling (and to witness religious processions such as the one in Ouro Preto) or spending the time with family.

Aside from merely passing the weekend with loved ones, it’s a popular custom to give gifts of large chocolate eggs, either filled with candy or hollow inside. The tradition in its most basic form goes back to several longstanding or ancient cultures, where the egg, especially a decorated one, is associated with the new life and fertility. Also, it’s important to note that Lent is known as being a time of refraining from dairy, and eggs fall into that category, so it makes sense that eggs are to be eaten before and right after Lent. The chocolate aspect is said to have been added by the French, whose culture heavily influenced that of Brazil in centuries gone by.

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Aside from the relaxing and the traveling, Brazilians also spend the long weekend attending religious processions, rituals, plays and, of course, mass. Far from the crowds, though, Easter lunch at home with the family is also an important aspect of the holiday (and a good way to balance the consumption of lots of chocolate).

While not a Brazilian tradition, per se, I’d like to leave you with a simple how-to video on turning a table napkin into a bunny. Feliz Páscoa!

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São Paulo had its most violent Virada Cultural

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Looting, stealing, fights, drug use, the closing of metro stations and more serious incidences: two deaths (one by gun and the other by overdose), five shot and at least two stabbed. Over the weekend, São Paulo recorded the most violent Virada Cultura since its first edition, in 2005. The crimes were concentrated between 2am and 5am yesterday (Saturday) and caused scenes of terror, like that of a young man being stabbed in the Viaduto do Chá area. In all, 28 adults were arrested, 9 adolescents were apprehended and 1,800 people had to be attended due to an excess of alcohol.

The city government and the Military Police confirmed the record violence at the Virada this year and attributed the problems to the “increase in the quantity of people willing to steal.” “People’s behavior changed. People who used to not come are coming (to the Virada) with other intentions”, said the mayor Fernando Haddad, upon commenting on the results of the first Virada of his term. “But we can’t let ourselves be intimidated. We have to go to the street.” At his side, Coronel Reinaldo Simões Rossi, the Military Police chief, said the police presence was larger than ever — 3,424 officers (350 more than last year) and 1,400 civil guard officers. “The MP have expertise in policing crowds. The behavior of the theives, however, transcends any planning”, he said.

During the day, there were complaints that the MPs weren’t reacting firmly towards the crimes. “In front of a crowd of 4 million, the uproar caused by police chasing after theives might be worse than the theft alone”, the Coronel reasoned. There were scenes of scuttling and confusion provoked by fights and looting in the early hours of the morning. Some areas were badly illuminated, like the Ramos Plaza, in front of the Teatro Municipal, and the Viaduto do Chá. Journalists from the Estado newspaper witnessed looting on the corner of Direita and Quintino Bocaiuva streets, close to the Sé Plaza. Merchants ended up closing their doors. Elsewhere, on Duque de Caxias Avenue, near the Sé Plaza, two girls fought 330 yards from a police vehicle. A little further, a young man was being beat up by four others. The police officers did nothing against the assaults.

Suplicy. On Saturday, just after the Daniela Mercury and Zimbo Trio concert, one of the victims of the violence was Senator Eduardo Suplicy. As soon as he realized his wallet had been taken, Suplicy went to the stage, beside Daniela Mercury, and made a plea that his belongings be returned. “They took his wallet with all his documentation. When he told me, I said that he should personally come to request that they be returned”, said the singer, who went on to say: “The person should return everything. If there’s money, all of it. Find a way to return it to a (police) posting.” After a few minutes, the Senator’s wallet with its documents were returned, but his cell phone didn’t show up. – Source

The Great Grape Festival of Caxias do Sul

The Festa da Uva (or, Grape Festival) is a Brazilian celebration of Italian heritage which takes place every two years in the town of Caxias do Sul, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. For close to 80 years, the residents have put on the celebration which usually falls around mid-February, lasting two weeks. As part of the festivities, local producers of food and wine present their best products to the public in an effort to both spread knowledge of their Italian roots and, of course, make a few sales.

The festival started not as a festival, but as an agroindustrial fair back in 1881, which brought together local farmers and producers so they could share ideas and showcase new methods to improve the harvesting of their crops. The fair was created as a means to centralize, even if just for a few days, those that normally worked scattered about in different locations within the region. It wasn’t until June 1st, 1910, that the first train began to run through Caxias do Sul, connecting the city (it was elevated to city status on the very same day) to nearby Montenegro and the state capital, Porto Alegre. The prosperous little city only became more prosperous with the new train since from Porto Alegre, a ship could take salesmen, along with wines, cheeses and other products, to São Paulo.

The new train didn’t just take people to far away places, it allowed others to come to the region such as traders and relatives who instead of just visiting, decided to move there and look for work. With the growth of the local industries and of the city, a Caxias do Sul resident named Joaquim Pedro Lisboa suggested in 1931 that a festival be created to celebrate the grape harvest. The press from the capital called it the “Little Grape Exposition” and though it only lasted one day, it was highly popular and even included airplanes doing fancy moves in the sky. The next year, they decided to do another Festa da Uva and in 1933, they added a new twist, the election of a Grape Festival Queen. In addition, the 3rd offering of the festival included the participation of three neighboring towns, Flores da Cunha, Bento Gonçalves and Garibaldi. The festival didn’t just reach other towns, its message of solidarity spread much further.

Brazil’s own president, Getúlio Vargas, said such bastions of cultural pride were nothing more than “social cysts” because to him they represented a fragmented society. Nonetheless, in Fascist Italy, there was an increasing interest in reconstructing the history of the emigrants. By doing so, such a history could be interpreted as a shining example of how the “Latin race” could contribute to the civilization of the New World, while also urging the Italians abroad to take pride in their ethnic origin. And take pride, they did.

Cleodes Ribeiro, a professor and researcher of Brazilian-Italian culture, describes the festival in the following way…

“If the celebration of the Grape Festival ritual served to proclaim the identity of the celebrants, display the result of their work over more than half a century and claim the status of being Brazilians, their defining characteristics were explained by the vocabulary employed in the symbolic ritual. The speeches, the exhibition and the distribution of grapes, the triumphal procession, the shopkeeper in their costumes, songs, banquets, congress and flags lining the streets, all reflected the efforts of the festival hosts in the process of self-representation.”

It is also important to note that these immigrant clusters in Brazil were not just refined to Italian descendants, nor was Caxias do Sul the only place Italians settled into upon moving to Brazil. These were people who created and sustained models of success that essentially came to replace the master-slave dynamic (of Portuguese descendants and their African slaves) that had encompassed Brazil for so long. To me, these often historical concentrations of once-separate nationalities that all landed in one country and eventually became one people, so to speak, are what makes Brazil so infinitely interesting. Even more so, each concentration retains either strong markers or, to a lesser extent, noticable vestiges of a more cohesive community-based identity. How many other nations can truly say the same of their people?

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

TEDx takes place in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 15th

On the 15th of February, Rio de Janeiro will play host to TEDx. For an entire day, cariocas interested in subjects such as health, transportation, education, culture, arts, design, science, technology and sustainability, will be able to share in the experience “in TED style”, as the event’s site says. Like the other TEDx events in Brazil that have come and gone (in São Paulo, the Amazon and most recently, in Porto Alegre), TEDxRio is an independently organized event that will follow TED principles. – Terra

TEDxRio

São Paulo Street Art Taking Over SP Museum

“The first time graffiti artist Mister Dheo went out “bombing” was in the dead of night, splashing cheap supermarket paint on the walls of an abandoned factory.  ‘I didn’t even have a name yet. I just wanted to paint, and to feel that adrenaline. I was young, and it was totally different from how it is now.’

Times have changed indeed. A decade later, Dheo doesn’t have to creep around when he wants to leave his mark. This month, his work will feature alongside 65 other street artists at São Paulo’s innaugural Graffiti Fine Art Biennale, held at the city’s prestigious museum of sculpture, MuBE.” – Source (more here)

More Info

Short Documentary (w/ English subs)

Rock in Rio Returns

“Rock in Rio will return to Carioca soil after 10 years away from the place where it was born. In a meeting between Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, and the event’s creator, Roberto Medina, the fourth edition of the Brazilian festival of pop music was agreed upon and will happen in September of 2011, in Jacarepaguá. The area, that is being readied, will also house the Athlete’s Park for the Olympics of 2016, also in Rio.

– The Athlete’s Park will be inaugurated together with Rock in Rio, which will happen next year. The area, between Riocentro and the Jacarepaguá Autodrome, is already being prepared for the event. The idea is that the place can receive other concerts, since another concert venue has been deemed a need of the city – said Eduardo Paes.

The last Carioca edition of the biggest music festival of the country happened in 2001, near Riocentro, in an area called Cidade do Rock. Since then, the land was abandoned. Rock in Rio already had other editions, only they took place (for some reason) in Lisbon and Madrid. On the 9th of August, Paes and Medina will meet again to divulge details of the event’s return.” – Oglobo (translation)

Bezerros: Creative Capital of Pernambuco

Recife Guide did a feature on the city of Bezerros in the interior of Pernambuco (about 50 min from Recife). Judging by the photos alone, it looks like a great place to be! Of special note is the Papangu Carnival and the Serra Negra region. Check out the link to know more!

For a peak at the Carnival there, see the photo slideshow below from photographer Jose Alves Gonçalves (with a song by Lenine called “Leão do Norte”).

Pan-Amazonian Book Fair in town!

One of the largest literary fairs in the country is in Belém at the Hangar (Center of Conventions & Amazonian Fairs) starting tomorrow November 6th, 2009 and lasting 10 days. In accordance with Brazil’s Year of France, the Book Fair will be the official closing event which promoted French culture in Brazil and several notable French authors will be in attendance. The 13th edition of the Fair will include 176 stands and the participation of 112 expositions (57 of which are national and 55 being regional). Over half a million people are expected and R$25 million is expected to exchange hands, in accordance with last years numbers.

The event will also include Literary Meetings with the likes of Ariano Suassuna, Emir Sader, Moacir Scliar, Zeca Caramago, Frei Betto, Zuenir Ventura, Laurentino Gomes, Cristovam Tezza and Sérgio Nogueira. Each event will happen at 8PM in the auditorium on the 2nd floor. Also, pocket shows with musical guests Lenine (the 6th) and João Bosco (the 14th) are scheduled.

Entrance is free and the Hangar is open from 10AM to 10PM everyday. The Hangar is located at Av. Dr. Freitas, S/N (Sem Número meaning no number).

Official Site: http://www.feiradolivro.pa.gov.br/

Official Schedule (PDF. in Port.)

Halloween costumes in Belem

Not sure how many actual Halloween parties there are in Belém but Tia Bola has you covered in case you need a costume, to buy or rent. Just click the link and choose Mens, Womens or Infants costumes. When I figure out how much they cost to rent or buy, I’ll add that information to this post. Stay tuned! In the meantime, there are pictures example of each on the site (although the little girls as Rebeldes…just plain weird).

Tia Bola

Tv: Castelo Branco nº 1803 entre R. dos Pariquis e Caripunas Bairro do Guáma- Fones:3249-0371, 3249-1496, 3032-9102.

If you need random elements of a costume you are putting together yourself, the Comercio district has plenty to choose from.