Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ultima Pregunta - Brasil Day 3 & 4

photo courtesy of Diego Moreno
Fifty years ago the neighborhood of Ibicuitaba was flooded by sand, and the roofs peeked out. The wind eventually blew feet of red sand away, and only the church and one other building survived. Freitas, a local historian, looks like a surfer but speaks of Icapui's history as if he were another grandfather in his porch hammock. He takes us from the oldest -- the grave of a communist rebel, to the youngest, a secondary school.

Watching children climb trees and jump elastics (extreme double dutch) I can't tell who is descended from negra, branco or indio. And when we talk, I don't think they know either.Their hair is blonde, brown and black-- tightly curled or silky straight. Their features tell of their Portuguese great grandfathers, but sometimes of natives and sometimes of Angolan slaves.

Lynsey and I came to Brasil armed with textbook definitions of racism, but they dissolve in the playground noise within hours. When a young theater group pulls on fake afros, sequins skirts and performs a play on slavery and African ancestry, their painted faces, their voices transform from mischevious and shy to confident leaders of an ancient rebellion.
I interview some of the teenagers and soon our chatting turns to dancing, and I am learning the Forro, awkwardly watching my feet and trying not to step on the feet of my 15-year-old partner, Rodrigo. When we are done he ties a braided bracelet on my wrist.

I thought that I would run out of questions after back to back days of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. conversations, but my curiosity runs strong and I continue to discover the heart of the beach and hills.

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