Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Beast in on the Loose in Brazil's Backlands

The beast was bored. The very-strong sun was hitting his head and leaving him thirsty. But he wanted some emotion. There was not much to do in the small city in the interior of Brazil. We were surrounded by people without T-shirts, holding glasses of beer, fat women drinking while laughing loudly.

It was mid-day and the beast was getting increasingly bored. And then he had his bright idea. He took the little bomb and threw against the door of the house. The bomb made a huge noise shaking the building. It was a firecracker made for the Saint John's celebration so it was nothing to destroy a house. But it might leave you deaf.


The babies were eating at home. Mike had two. Aged 2 and 5. They started crying out loud. The bomb left them frightened. Mike went out of the door and started shouting at the group of men outside his house. They answered that they knew nothing. It was somebody else who had fled by bike. They laughed when Mike complained.
Mike called the police. The man on the phone said that it was normal in the Saint John's feast. Everybody does it. No problem.
But Mike was no man to give up. He called a friend of his. The friend saw the piece of the bomb all around the door. He could feel the smell of the explosion all around the place. And the fingerprints were on the papers of the bomb left over after the explosion. Mike showed that to the fat men sitting outside drinking beer.
They got frightened. And angry. It was not a joke any more. It was becoming serious stuff. And so one of them came and admitted it was him who threw the bomb. But he denied it had been in bad faith. It is normal during this time of the year. The idea of leaving two kids deaf did not make him any frightened. He just didn't care.
The beast does not care. The interior of Brazil is like this. You just have to go along with that. Or leave. The beasts are there. There are many of them.
Do not just believe that they will respect you. If you are a foreigner at the beginning they will smile at you. But you got to be aware.
Then there it the case of a web designer called Leonardo from Itabuna, Bahia, in the Brazilian northeast. The guy was hired to do the job for a local NGO. He did some of it. But then, all of a sudden he decided he wanted to be paid and soon. He got half of the money and then disappeared.

The NGO sent him dozens of emails and phone calls. They wanted to know what was going on. Why was he not doing his job. When was he going to finish it. Forget about it, man. Leo just did not care about his client.

The beast hid himself. He never answered the emails. He never returned his clients calls. He doesn't want to know. He doesn't care about professionalism.
What kind of people live in the interior of Brazil? Wonderful people, but also beasts. Wild beasts, nasty beasts. Remember that when you go to Brazil civilization hasn't arrived there. And the beasts are still around. Making loud noises in the middle of the night, not caring about the people who want to sleep.

These are people who don't give a damn about human rights or any right at all. They just care about themselves. Real beasts. But this is the real Brazil. Not Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. The interior of Brazil.
Where if you are a foreigner they'll come after you. Because you do not have protection and are getting in their territory. Be aware of that. If you don't want to get into serious trouble don't even go there.

The beast hides himself in his environment. He feels protected. And there he does whatever he wants. He knows nobody is going to find him. The law? It's difficult. It is cumbersome to activate. And the beast knows it. That is why he feels protected. Be aware of that when you go in the beast's land.
Published in June 2011

Itaparica, a Cozy Brazilian Island to Warm up in Winter

Are you stressed due to long working hours? Can't you free your mind from your boss' comments, your distressing working days in a gray environment, and even from your day-to-day family problems?

You just want to take a break from this world without spending a huge amount of money? Come to Itaparica, the island facing Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Here, despite being close to one of the most lively cities in the world, where there is the greatest Carnaval on earth, you find an amazing combination of piece, large historical center, good cuisine and beautiful beaches.

I am sure you are thinking: here we go again with the latest paradise discovered where I am going to find hugely crowded hotels and restaurants, tourists taking pictures all around and so on.
And indeed in high season (summer time for Brazilians, winter for Europeans and Americans) in Itaparica the landscape is crowded with Brazilians and especially Bahians going all around in a loud environment.
But in winter time (August- September) the scenario is completely different. This is a real isolated place where you can sit and rest in peace, forget the whole world, and still visit a beautiful historical center and stunning beaches. The combination of piece and relaxation comes with a limited hotel offer, so you really have to reserve in advance. Do not be worried: in winter time the few hotels are empty and there are still many houses you can rent at cheap prices (between US$ 400 and US$ 600 a month).
And the cuisine is excellent: the Turkish restaurant in the historical center is a must-go place if you want to experience a delicious cuisine in Itaparica city.
But where is this wonderful island, how can you get there, how can you move around? Well first you fly to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. Then you go straight from the airport to catch the ferry boat in Feira de São Joaquim.
Do not take the little boat (lancha) in Mercado Modelo like most of tourists do. This is because these boats are very unsafe, maneuvered by unskilled people and you can seriously risk your life there.
By taking the ferry boat, instead, the trip is safe, although it is advisable not to catch it during rush hours as it fills up very quickly. The area surrounding the ferry station is not pleasant but the trip is safe.
Once you get in Bom Despacho you take a cab to Itaparica city, the capital of the island (20 minutes trip). The island of Itaparica is actually divided in two towns: Itaparica (its land covers approximately 18% of the island) and Vera Cruz (with 82% of the island).

Let's start with the city of Itaparica, with its beautiful historical center, probably the best preserved historical center in Brazil. Pelourinho in Salvador and Paraty in Rio state are larger but Itaparica path walk is much better and easier to get around.

A good option is to have the city of Itaparica as a base and visit the beaches around. But remember: the tranquillity of Itaparica is due to the virtual lack of nightlife.
Here walking along the bay at night is very relaxing indeed, but you will not find pubs or restaurants opened at night. At the end of the day I advised you: you come to Itaparica if you want to unplug from the stress of the world. The best you can get is an Internet place where you can check your emails accumulated when you were laying on the beach. And in Itaparica city there is DSL connection, a luxury on the island.
Where to stay? Try and avoid pousada Cantinho da Ilha if you can, as the rooms are small and fairly unpleasant. Hotel Icaraí is a much better option, as it is larger and close to the beach.
At this stage you are in the center of the historical center where you can move around safely during the day. Be a bit careful if you are a woman travelling by yourself: it is not dangerous at all but you might be approached a few times by locals in search of adventures.
The city beach, behind the fort, is an option if you want to stay in the city and not move around. But the best beaches are in other parts of the island. Where are they? The closest to the historical center is Ponta de Areia, a stunning beach just 4 km away from the city of Itaparica.
This dream beach has clear and clean waters; there is plenty of restaurants and cabanas next to the beach. The bar-restaurant Copacabana, run by an Angolan guy, Rogério, has good food but it is a bit small. A large restaurant further up along the beach, run by an Italian guy named Renato, is a good option for quality food although a bit expensive. After 7 pm the street along the beach is desert and the sunset is beautiful. Very relaxing and total absence of mental stress or anxiety.
Another beautiful beach is Barra do Gil in Vera Cruz. This beautiful place hosts an expensive but very comfortable resort called Sol e Mar run by a French man named Jean Louis Desnoes.
Be careful: although the place is close to the city of Itaparica, if you go to Barra do Gil by public transportation (namely van or small buses often overcrowded) you have to catch two vans even for a small distance. You probably better off renting a motoscooter or a car and are free to move around.

published in august 2007

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Italiani del Brasile

Salvador de Bahia - Marzo 2007, autobus Aeroporto, Salvador de Bahia: la signora anziana vestita di nero che parla portoghese stentato con forte accento abbruzzese sembra uscire da un film del dopoguerra italiano.
Ma la ultra settantenne con viso raggrinzito e simpático che parla con la figlia, bella signora brasiliana di mezza età, è lo specchio di questo Brasile moderno.
Per una strana combinazione l'aeroporto internazionale Luiz Eduardo Magalhães di Salvador è vicino a "Little Abruzzi" dove vive una delle maggiori comunità abruzzesi fuori d'Itália.
Febbraio 2007, Ilhéus (sud della Bahia), zona campi. L'agricoltore con la faccia piena di rughe parla con forte accento napoletano sulle difficoltà della coltivazione dei campi quest'anno. Il figlio, un simpatico mulatto risponde con accento napoletano, "C'avimma fà papà?" e prende sottobraccio la bella biondina dell'entroterra baiano.

In queste due immagini si vede la differenza tra l'emigrazione in Brasile e quella negli altri paesi del mondo. Gli italiani emigrati in Brasile, come la simpática ultrasettantenne, sono ormai brasiliani, vivono con sfiducia il rapporto con la madrepatria, che li ha dimenticati in fretta bollandoli come "poveri emigranti".
I figli degli emigranti italiani in Brasile sono parte della comunità locale. Sono brasiliani 100%, non sono italiani.

La recente polemica divampata in Italia sugli italiani del Brasile e sulla necessità di chiudere la retorica dell'emigrazione, è stata scatenata da un'altra ultrasettantenne, illustre articolista del Corriere.

E l'ironia di ciò è che il sunto della polemica è di dimenticare in fretta la figura folcloristica dell'emigrante novecentesco, partito con la classica valigia di cartone.
Ciò perchè il Brasile è cambiato, è diverso, è un Paese unitario.
E questo è verissimo, non c'è nessun Paese al mondo più integrato del Brasile.

La mescolanza di razza di lingue, di religioni, che specialmente si vede qui a Bahia, non esiste in nessun paese al mondo.
Tutto vero? Dimentichiamo gli emigranti?

Beh no, perchè sono ancora tanti, sono vivissimi, sono italiani e sono dimenticati dall' Italia .

Sapevate che moltissimi emigranti di lunga data sono in situazione di completa indigenza?
Sapevate che questi italiani che hanno sofferto tutto il possibile, sono invecchiati in terra straniera e dimenticati dai propri familiari e dalla propria patria, sono ancora molti, specie in Bahia?
Sapevate che pochissimi di loro sono registrati all'AIRE, che per l' Italia abitano ancora nel Vecchio continente, ammesso che hanno ancora il registro nel Paese d'origine?
Ma allora qual'è la ragione di questa profonda disaffezione con la madrepatria "anima e core"?

Due passi alla Casa d' Italia , ultimo bastione italiano di Salvador de Bahia, dà un immagine della situazione di abbandono in cui versa la comunità italiana.
La presenza italiana a Bahia, istituzionale e commerciale, lascia molto a desiderare.
Il consolato onorario, "ospitato" dalla Casa d' Italia , è ancora il bastione indissolubile del dubbio console onorario Pisanu. Domande circa la sua gestione finanziaria allà corte dei Conti a Roma sono ancora rimaste inevase.

Gli uffici commerciali dell'Ambasciata di Brasilia, interpellata circa attività di investimento italiana a Bahia, non risponde. Sembra di essere tornati indietro nel tempo, quando l'amministrazione pubblica italiana rispondeva a muso duro o ignorava le domande inoltrate.
Fortunatamente c'è una felice eccezione nel comportamento fine ed educato del Console di Rio de Janeiro Massimo Bellelli, che risponde sempre per tempo alle domande della stampa.
Perchè dunque la donna ultrasettantenne abruzzese dovrebbe credere nella propria patria, quando ancora oggi per un certificato la si costringe alla gogna pubblica della fila nella canicola di Salvador, fuori della Casa d' Italia ? E le altre istituzioni italiane, i partiti politici che stanno cercando di espandere la propria presenza all'estero per crescere la presenza parlamentare?
Tentativi di creare una filiale dei DS a Salvador sono stati stroncati dal diktat del segretario político del Brasile Andrea Lanzi. Qui in Brasile sembra che la ventata di riformismo dei partiti di sinistra non hà attraversato l'Atlantico ed il concetto di democrazia interna non esiste.

Peggio ancora fanno i partiti di destra italiana, che praticamente non esistono a Bahia.
E le Acli, i patronati, le altre istituzioni? Con la eccezione della UIL a Salvador non esistono, nè si prevede di crearli.
Ma perchè la comunità spagnola o portoghese a Bahia, come in altre parti del Brasile, è così forte, compatta, autoprotettrice, mentre quella italiana è disgregata nel Nordest brasiliano?

Perchè si tratta di una comunità che è partita povera, e lo è rimasta anche qui in Brasile. Mentre gli spagnoli o portoghesi dominano qualunque attività economica bahiana, gli italiani non sono importanti, con alcune notevoli eccezioni come l'ospedale São Rafael.
Gli italiani sono sperduti, diffidenti, addirittura hanno paura di registrarsi all'AIRE, (i giovani emigrati perchè temono di perdere i benefici fiscali in patria).

E allora qual'è la verità sulla "retorica dell'emigrazione italiana in Brasile"?
Probabilmente la verità sta nel mezzo.

E' vero che le nuove generazioni sono brasiliane e nemmeno parlano l'italiano (e nemmeno vogliono a volte). E' però anche vero che gli arzilli ultrasettantenni italiani di Bahia sono vivi e vegeti ed hanno lo stesso diritto di rispetto e considerazione da parte della nostra amata Patria degli ultrasettantenni di là, alcuni di loro illustri commentatori del Corriere della Sera.

Notiziario NIP - News ITALIA PRESS agenzia stampa - N° 64 - Anno XIV, 2 aprile 2007