A Walk on the Beach with Pedro Alvares Cabral

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 12

The Journey:  Porto Seguro/Salvador July 12 - July17, 1980

Thirteen hour overnight bus ride, Salvador to Porto Seguro.
Nothing on earth could make me believe this could be true: Here, in Porto Seguro, I meet Iva Lee Hartman ex West Virginia, ex-Bryanston/Three Vikings/Bryanston Country Club/Ciro's/my godfather's nightclub, Diamond Horseshoe (places Iva frequented in Johannesburg, South Africa.)

Iva now lives in Porto Seguro like a decadent aristocrat as owner of “Campo Gringo” resort and “Engenho do Duque.” From three to nine p.m. spent in company of this lovely/sad/lonely/exotic figure, as memorable a meeting as anything yet in Brazil!
I'm working on Porto Seguro contacts: Senhor Benedito, “town crier” promises meeting early hour tomorrow. As I write I realize that I've not slept since 8.00 a.m. Sunday 12th; now 10 p.m. Monday 13th = 38 hours. Good night!
The beach at Porto Seguro, Brasil
Curious thing about Porto Seguro is that though this is where Pedro Álvares Cabral landed, scene of the “discovery” of Brazil, there is little to mark so momentous an event for the people of Brazil.

There is a Cross, several in fact, at the alleged landing spot - stark, little adorned, no more. A decadent Indian village - Patachos - around the Cross, selling necklaces, feathered arrows, other trinkets.

Craig Hartman tells me some local townsfolk wanted village moved. I wonder whether they saw irony of the Cross and the ruined people at its feet.

The Cross as symbol of the advent of the Portuguese; the curio-selling favela as symbolic of what the Indians who welcomed Cabral inherited.
Errol Lincoln Uys at the Cross, Porto Seguro

Sixteen kilometers away from Porto Seguro to the south is Cabrália Santa Cruz, which claims to be site of first landing.
Who is correct? I'm told by Antonietta that accepted historical view is Cabrália, not Porto Seguro - which must irritate the hell out of its people, for it's truly depressed compared with Porto Seguro. Cabrália also seems far more noted for relics of an ill-fated French vessel which foundered on its reef. Its “restaurant” decorated with the ship's hawsers, ventilators, life belts etc.
A reflection on the days of Cabral... Porto Seguro
Can hardly imagine reaction of the Portuguese who got here first. The magnificent beaches, the groves of palm trees, the hills in the background leaning toward the shore, their heights offering special defensive positions.

Landing of Pedro Álvares Cabral, Oscar Pereira da Silva,
Museu Paulista , São Paulo
First Mass in Brazil, Victor Meirelles,Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

I'm increasingly impressed with outgoing friendship of the Brazilian people. Group at supper watched me eating alone and invited me over. Two couples from São Paulo, who afterwards asked if I would like to go for a walk. They share their spontaneous enthusiasm for Brazil, the future of their country - We talk of African/Indian folklore, its fundamental force behind Brazilian culture.
(Back in Salvador) After all my worry about visas etc., Antonietta says I'm fortunate having a South African background. Brazilians do care but know little of apartheid. Show that you do not support that insanity and they're likely to be far more receptive to you than they would be to a North American.

Antonietta is, of course, first major contact and there'll be other opinions, but she speaks of underlying resentment toward the U.S., its multinationals, its prejudice toward Brazil.
I've been here ten days and my sense of identification with the Brazilian people grows. They're vibrant, friendly, energetic - a nation imbued with the pioneer spirit. They have a vision that theirs is a nation going places, though the direction is not always clear.
The contrasts between rich and poor, old and new, were initially staggering to me and remain so. But even among the poor, there seems no utter wretchedness: even they have a sense of the potential of Brazil, and thus, hope.
I see this hope in a small self-help program at Porto Seguro and Cabrália: the townspeople have tackled the problem of the abandonados by giving the youngsters jobs as tourist guides. They're taught to lead visitors through the old parts of town. Twenty years down the road, I'll lay a bet, one of them could be running his own tour operation.

Brazil - The Epic Novel of a Great Nation and Its People

A Day at Modelo Mercado; A Night with "Decadent Aristocrats."

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 11

The Journey: Salvador, Bahia  July 8 - July 11
Grab a few hours this a.m. for “office work.” Must allow more time for mental appraisal/assimilation of the barrage of information. Feel pretty secure with picture of Bahia for Tomás's arrival, Padre Inácio etc. (These are characters from my Outline for Brazil written earlier and based on book knowledge of Brazil and research in Portugal.)
Went to Antonietta's house in Sapateiros. Drunk, soiled beggar in doorway. We spent three hours poring over books from her four-thousand volume library. Especially impressed with her bandeirante material. Rest largely comprises works on churches, churches, churches. “Nossa Senhora” (Our Lady) are two words I'll never forget
In afternoon we go to the market, Mercado Modelo. An explosion of life Bahianese! Essentially a tourist/handicraft market, it has a restaurant attached to it. A vast meeting place where beer flows like water and people sing the songs of Bahia. For three hours, we eat and listen to the Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Again bringing a thought of the “release” from the slave quarters. (My South African heritage shames me in this blackest of all Bahiana cities!)
Historic Salvador, Bahia
with Mercado Modelo  Photo: Fernando Molina/Wikipedia

Back to Antonietta's house in the oldest quarter and for four-and-a-half hours she sits reading my synopsis. Her verdict is ENTHUSIASTIC! And a good deal more! Few Brazilians know the history as ELU, she says. Encouraging.
For an hour afterwards, we sit talking about the political realities, '64 to present. Troubling. She explains background of the opposition PF (Popular Front) to which she belonged aimed at grassroots change, alongside PCdoB(Communist Party, Maoist) and PCB (old Prestes group, pro-Soviet.) Also active were Focustas (from “focus”) who became most radical element. After congress, PF merged with PCdoB to work for reforms.
Pro Democracy Demonstration in Brazil 1984
Photo: Jorge Henrique Singh via Wikipeida

She talks of strong-arm methods/disappearance of friends etc. All very similar in most respects to South African situation.
Not clear of objectives, though main purpose “to improve condition” of the people. That's too broad for my liking. In recent times, things appear to have eased up but not clear to what extent. She stresses role of the Church. Even though it may not be evident in outward ways, e.g. church attendance, the Catholic spirit is fundamental to Brazilians.
Antonietta refers to 1 percent of population being truly “educated,” traveled etc. including those like herself whom she describes as “decadent aristocrats.”
Our talks end at 1.40 A.M. I've decided to move to Porto Seguro on Monday morning; Brasília next Thursday.

The Sound of the Bells and the Crack of the Whip in old Salvador

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 10

The Journey: Salvador, Bahia  July 8 - July 11

July 8 I'm determined to keep this journal daily so though it's late, after a delightfully exhausting six hours with the best contact I've made in three months, I'll scribble a few lines.
Prayerful as I was last night, today started at 9 a.m. at Henriques' office. 9.10: “There is a problem.” - “Urgently called to accompany the director to a distant town to discuss plans for centenary etc.” - “Please come to Sally's office and we will find somebody.” Temper rising but nothing I can do about it!! Patience. Sally makes phone call to "Antonietta" at the Archives. She can meet me at the Cathedral at 4.30. (Today, all Bahia life grinds to a halt because of Brazil vs. Spain soccer game.)

Salvador Brazil Cathedral
Cathedral at Salvador, Bahia
Kill time noon to 4.30 including bumping into exuberant Germans who were in taxi with me Tuesday a.m. They've “seen it all” - three hour tour and night of folklore and are leaving for Rio at 2.30! At 4.30 find  Antonietta (de Aguiar Nunes) waiting in the doorway of the Cathedral. Go through my routine "introduction" again but this time find a perfect gem. A history professor mastering in social work, Antonietta “knows it all,” genuinely.
Plunge into a three conversation, then to dinner at Pelourinho Square (restored by UNESCO) at "hotel school" that offers forty kinds of Bahia cuisine = African modified by spices of East (as per fleets from India.) Tomorrow we're to meet at nine to continue the “researches.” The Good Lord be praised! Despite the Henry hitch, all augers well for the Brazilian adventure.
July 9 — A brilliant day! Won't attempt to repeat what's in my working notebooks. (Besides my journal, I filled a pile of notebooks as I went along.) Antonietta's contacts are stupendous, her enthusiasm unlimited. Now to bed, for I'm exhausted but in these early days of the journal, determined to make some entry, no matter how insignificant.
July 10-11 — Missed two nights' entries. Not through “sloth” but time! July 10 occupied with “re-creation” of 18th century Bahia. How the Portuguese must've loved this city! With its narrow, hilly cobbled streets, it is strong reminiscent of Lisbon and Coimbra. Most impressive is the Pelourinho - Pillory Square - with the old townhouses of the wealthy. The Pillory was moved here at the request of the Jesuits - it had previously been near the Cathedral - the lash and the bell/choir aren't compatible.
Salvador Brazil
Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
I am slowly conditioning myself to life as lived here. On Thursday evening Professor Antonietta and I are invited to plantation 70 kilometers north with loan of car. On Friday evening the invite falls through. "A's" sister has arrived. "A" needs car and so on. Change plans. I wander streets by myself.
Among many sights is a carpenter's shop. Men at lunch round table surrounded by wood shavings, playing dominoes etc. One-eyed carpenter. Easily 18th century!
In evening we go to sound and light show at 17/18th century seafront fazenda that includes tobacco warehouse/slave quarters. Can't follow libretto and am somewhat irritated by excessive use of colored lights but get the ambiance.
Nothing impresses so much as the voices of the prayerful from the small chapel rising alongside crack of a whip wielded against the slaves. Can see why the Jesuits asked that this scourge be moved from their holy place.
Earlier in the day visited convent with foundling wheel — larger than I expected — Some said it was an excuse for the nun's own progeny. Convent built by a wealthy man with five daughters. All the girls consigned to the building for life. Nice pater!

Landing in Salvador - Princess Paraguaçu, Two Abandonados, a Cockroach and a Prayer

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 9
The Journey; Salvador, Bahia, July 7 - July 14
(Landed at 3.40 a.m.) Early morning arrivals are disastrous, especially when coupled with congress of six thousand medicos starting tomorrow. Good-intentioned cab driver drops me at sea front. Gray sky, showers, pre-dawn humidity. First hotel full, second $50 a night. Find myself walking back toward Centro after stop for Coke at kiosk where my “jacket Americano” is main interest. Also my $1 note for Coke. Scrawny woman creeping in and out of shadows to beg a cigaretta.
Finally made it via VW taxi to “Hotel Imperial” in Centro at 6.15 and get room at 900 cruzeiros (91cr. to $1.) A benign fleapit. Shocking pink walls. Cockroach at eye level when I wake five hours later. Noise. Deadly shower system (loose electric wires dangling from heating unit) but probably a lot better than what lies ahead and able to keep me within my $30-a-day budget. (And, as usual, contradicting LdJ's observations on “horribly expensive Brazil.”) I had perfectly adequate dinner of chicken, feijoas, rice, salad, beer and tip for 330cr. ($3.50)
Salvador Brazil harborFirst impressions of Salvador come from the large black population. Were this not Brazil, you could expect to awake in a West African seafront town.
First encounter with abandonados particularly memorable in visage of two little girls who'd steal many a U.S. heart. Sad if one considers all the implications beyond the empty soda tin thrust toward you but yet not pathetic.
There was a liveliness, a vivacity, as in their response when a customer at the snack bar ordered a glass of water which he tossed over them! In contrast, a young boy who was approached stopped to talk with the prettiest of the two girls, gave her a fond clasp on her shoulder - no money - before going on his way.
The urgency of getting down to serious work after the Portuguese experience impresses upon me. By 4.30 I've spent two and half hours with the Bahia information people who seem much more on the ball. Arrange to spend day with Henriques Caldeira. I'm impressed with the “sense of history” shown by these first contacts: Dona Linda Conde, who spoke of a plantation that's been in her family for 250 years; Henry who is Jewish and traces his ancestry back to the Dutch/Portuguese connection and Dona Gildene who is a great-great-great + granddaughter of Paraguaçu, the Indian princess who married Caramuru. Dona Gildene also has Dutch ancestry. (Must check influence of Dutch influence down here.)
This first brief foray suggests Bahia is font of Brazilian culture. Am also beginning to realize importance of maintaining this journal to remember all that comes at me and to have this “self-communication” each evening. This self-imposed silence for one so garrulous as me is unusual!
I go to bed quietly hopeful and prayerful. Have, as I did in Portugal with the likes of Serrão, prepared a list of “interests.” Pray God that they come up to expectations. I close Day One with a sense of cautious optimism.
Princess Paraguaçu and Caramuru

The Epic of Brazil on Amazon Kindle


“Through the lives of two powerful families, Brazil depicts five turbulent centuries in the history of a remarkable land. From colony to kingdom, from empire to nation, Brazil is filled with memorable people living through one of the great adventures in human history.”

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Pulsing with vigor, this is a vast novel to tell the story of a vast country. Uys recreates history almost entirely "at ground level," through the eyes and actions of an awesome cast of characters.  Publishers Weekly

Uys has accomplished what no Brazilian author from José de Alencar to Jorge Amado was able to do. He is the first outsider with the total honesty and sympathy to write our national epic in all its decisive episodes. Descriptions like those of the war with Paraguay are unsurpassed in our literature and evoke the great passages of War and Peace Wilson Martins, Jornal do Brasil

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