Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
Benção with Olodum, Pickpockets, Porto do Barra, Lisa Leaves, Historic Buildings of the Pelourinho
Page 12 of 17


Every Tuesday was the Benção, or Blessing. But in the Pelourinho, it was also a weekly street party.

Lisa and I had come out onto the street.  People were dancing to the drumming of Olodum.  Olodum had performed with Michael Jackson and had been a main fixture in Bahia since 1979.

But with the crowds came the danger of pickpockets.  Less than a minute after joining the throng, as I was attempting to take a photo, someone had already unzipped my camera bag.  But I had been prepared since I had been warned repeatedly about theft in the Pelourinho.  I had emptied the pocket, and all of the inner compartment bags were already fastened inside.  I barely glimpsed the blur of a hand darting away.  I couldn't tell who it was. Moments later, a girl, looking rather alarmed, screamed above the din while clutching her purse, "Watch your bag!!!  They're everywhere!!  Watch your bag!!!!"

But just two minutes later, someone tried to get into my pants pockets.  There, too, I had been prepared.  I had nothing in my pockets except for a few bills kept in a zipped pocket.  Still, though, I was alarmed that in the span of only several minutes, two attempts at pickpocketing had already been made.

Thankfully, there were no more pickpocketing attempts, although I took great pains to move about and be watchful while enjoying the festivities.  Sweaty dancers grooved to the somewhat marching band rhythms, going side to side, raising their arms, following the procession of the drummers, moving slowly up the hill.  The ritualistic nature of the drumming and dancing reminded me somewhat of the late great band Crash Worship, although not so experimental in nature.

Olodum playing for both locals and tourists alike.

After a while, we stopped off to rest and have drinks at the popular Cantinho de Lua on the Terreiro de Jesus before taking a taxi back, running the red lights as was the norm.

15 July Wednesday - Today I felt a bit sad since this was Lisa's last day, while I was going to stay on for one more week.  Last year, I had left to travel the Indian Himalayas for six weeks, but here, one week seemed long, although I knew it would go quickly.  Part of my idea when planning this trip had been for me to take this last week to photograph Salvador more, but the constant warnings about safety and the pickpocketing attempt the previous evening had made me extremely wary.

We walked to a local restaurant with wooden chairs serving fried fish, rice, beans, and salad for 8 reals, then walked out to Porto do Barra.  If this beach were good enough for Caetano Veloso, it'd be good enough for us.

The lighthouse by Barra, overlooking the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Eventually, it was time for Lisa to catch a bus to the airport.  I walked out with her to the bus stop.  I would see her in a week. 

On the way back, I stopped by the local supermarket to purchase sandwich fixings.  Also, today was Alex's birthday.  We hung out, enjoyed caipirinhas.  Some of us went to drink at Santo Antonio on Rua Recife, then to another bar.  I had wanted to go see some samba at Beco de Gal, but the late night and my growing paranoia from constant warnings and Pelourinho pickpockets made me think that I'd turn in and read a book.

16 July Thursday - It rained all morning.  Lisa had gotten hung up in Rio, where we had to fly to before going to Miami, and had missed her connecting flight.  I hung out in the morning.

In the afternoon, I went to the Pelourinho to try and see the Museu Afro-Brasileiro, but this was closed for renovations.  No matter, the Pelourinho had no shortage of things to do.  I wandered down the cobblestone streets.

Walking downhill to the triangle-shaped Largo do Pelourinho, I stopped to photograph these charming ladies.

And right off the Largo do Pelourinho, I visited the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, an 18th century church built by and for the slaves. 

It's been said that the Portuguese didn't actually built the city of Salvador, black slaves did.  They built 365 churches in the city, one for each day of the year. 

And they were forced to convert to Catholicism.  After all, a conversion to Catholicism meant that they could worship, marry, and receive a decent burial.

But despite this, they could only worship at this one church, the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos.  After they built it.  The slaves took a hundred years to construct this church.  Since they were busy building other churches, they could only work on this church at night.  This church had black saints, markedly different from most other churches. 


The steps leading up to the Igreja do Passo, where Geronimo and his band played every Tuesday for the Benção ("Blessing"), and where children played futebol, the second religion of Brazil.

Although UNESCO gave funding for historic Pelourinho to become a World Heritage Site, not all the buildings were renovated.  Still, they have a colorful decaying beauty of their own which I found interesting.

I had been to other countries that had European colonial architecture in various stages of decay.  Ghana, India, Burma, Peru, Ecuador, China (Shanghai), all with fascinating balconies, doors, sculptures, all pointing to a fascinating past.

Still, one of the problems with some of the these unrestored buildings is that some of them were abandoned, only to be filled with people on crack, according to Randy at Cana Brava.  Worse, still, was when much of the Pelourinho was being restored through UNESCO funding, many people were moved out.  The problem occurred when almost no one moved back in, the renovated buildings reoccupied instead by shops and hotels and restaurants.  "Hardly anyone actually lives here," Randy said.  "Crime has increased, and tourism has fallen in the last few years.  People have heard about the crime, and they stay away."  He mentioned that many businesses had changed hands or gone out of business.

Still, as a photographer, I found a real beauty to the buildings, decaying or not.

Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
Page 12 of


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