Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31 - A Day Remembered

Tanks roll in military rule.

March 31 is a rueful date in Brasil’s history. On that day in 1964 people disappeared, civil liberties were suspended, hard-won freedoms were lost overnight. In what was supposed to be a temporary transition the military coup turned into two decades of oppression.

Teachers were hauled away, while actors and poets went into exile. Students who had pushed hard for social reforms were tortured and killed. Their textbooks were heavily edited to support revisionist histories. Film makers and writers had to be clever to make sure their work got past the censors and still had relevance.

A million people march for democracy in 1968

Not surprisingly, the poorest suffered the worst, with nearly 50 percent of the population living in the favelas on less than a dollar a day. The slums quickly spread across the large cities, while foreign multinationals profited from Brasil’s rapidly expanding economy. Education was limited to the privileged, while babies borne by the poor seldom lived to five years of age.

While the US and many nations in Europe had 200 to 500 years to develop their political systems, Brasil has had just 23 years of democracy.

Students push for a new democracy in 1987

A month ago 150,000 people in Rio gathered in a driving rainstorm to protest a proposed government policy. In October they vote in their country’s most important presidential election. Brasilians are moving at light-speed to a future no one would have predicted forty-six years ago.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Hour of Perception

As the Hour of the Planet approaches I lay on a small pier watching the southern stars with my companion. On most nights the stars steal the show, but tonight they hide behind small clouds that look like poodles.

Directly above, a 90 percent gibbous waxing moon casts her spell on the water, which ripples from a welcome breeze.

The placid water holds the reflection of lights across the lagoon. The restaurants are full of people talking. Traffic horns and sounds of bossa-nova waft in and out of range. The herons call to each in the dark. Life goes on.

The Christ on the promontory turns off for 60 minutes. The breeze blows out our candle.

Photo by Delma Godoy

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carioca Dolphins Swim Free in Rio's Ipanema

A dozen dolphins were caught on film swimming in high seas off Ipanema Beach in the Zona Zul District of Rio early Tuesday morning, March 16.

Initially, the pod headed towards Leblon Beach then turned back. Known for their near human speech patterns, they were heard to say “Not My Beach” and swam back to Ipanema, before heading toward the Cagarras Islands.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This is My Beach

There is a saying among the Carioca, “all things die on the beach in Rio”.

I contemplate this phrase as I walk along the shore, with either beer or coconut milk settling in my bloodstream. At sunset couples walk hand in hand, children laugh as they run in and out of the water, soccer balls fly and bounce with impunity. Off shore the sea may be gentle, warm, light green waves in the last rays of day. Occasionally, the sea is rough edged, dark and forbidding, landing near your feet on shore with a thud.

Everything on the beach is temporary and casual, the result of unspecified but obvious rules. The beach has outlived bans and survived legislation because it is a culture where grandiose plans, straight lines, goals and trivialities are shed with the next wave.

Here at the edge of the eroding continent is a place where men cannot build castles. Instead, the people erect fantasy in the clouds. Here, the flesh is unleashed and the body is freed when the street clothes come off.

Not unlike a tribal community, denizens of the beach are made up of people who are territorial. They carry on traditions honed over the decades by staking out a place on the beach in the company of those they enjoy. There is the Globo television set, the fashionistas, the journalists, the business elite, artists, and the body cult. They find their spots along Ipanema, Copacabana or La Blon.

With two million people at the beach on weekends in the summer, a vast community is nowhere else but the beach. The regular life is forgotten. People who are not working the new, new thing are looking for friends or a place in the sun, an umbrella, a chair and a vendor to keep them supplied with tasty treats and beer for the duration of their stay. They sit for hours, often with people they may never see off the beach. By some instinct - perhaps a survival technique honed through generations – these sun worshippers remain relevant and secure in their place. If threatened by petty annoyances, they leave with a simple phrase: “It’s not my beach,”

With all this in mind one day I throw a handful of hand-written daily intentions into a wild sea hoping to find a generous god who will deliver them to the appropriate Shepard. The paper notes are quickly sucked back into the waves. Perhaps dreams don’t die at the beach.
Photos by Delma Godoy