On the Road in Brazil - "Lady Di" of São Raimundo Nonato!

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 14
The Journey to São Raimundo Nonato July 22-24. 1980
July 22 The start of 2500-kilometer bus trip from Brasília to São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí and then to Uaúa near Canudos:
Within an hour of leaving Brasília, it begins to hit the senses, this “openness” with only the smallest dents of civilization on it. It's curious that with so much land, there should be a chronic possesseiros problem...
Road is hard-top with “breaks” of red dust. Bus takes them at 50/60 km/h. Overtaking on blind rises, corners, banging across rough stretches: amusement of some passengers, terror of others. Cars with lights on. Vegetation is deep, dusty red, every leaf, tree trunk. Dust curtain for a hundred yards on either side. Windows closed because of dust. Hot! Deviations (Desvio!) left and right. Telephone lines draped on tree branches. Vast ranches. Dust covered Brahmin-type cattle. Road workers waving. Passing vehicles hooting. Long red vein to horizon. Strikes me as one of areas of “last great adventure."Brazilian backlands Bahia
You don't know Brazil until you have sat with its people hour after hour, banging across dusty roads, nose blocked, throat parched, on and on through the day and night. Poverty stricken worker next to me. Says little. Half a tooth on upper jaw. Dust-stained white linen bag with possessions. Dress of same material.
July 23 7 a.m. “Asfalt!” Acclamation through bus after night on dirt. Road still primitive. Drifts, no bridges, taken at healthy speed. Remote “All Night” road stop. Ghastly meal. Outside, incongruous sight of attractive girl, a fazendeiro's daughter and his sons with brand-new tractor that won't start.
Old man in pink trousers and grandson sit next to me.
8.15 a.m. Start of true sertão. Green now but you can easily imagine it in a drought. Flat-topped table hills, eroded, red sand. Simple house of mud and palm thatch.
12.30 p.m. Looks as if trip to first point shorter than expected. A mere 24 hours! Delighted by prospect since glance at motorista in his rear view mirror shows him battling to stay awake. Madre Deus!  
São Raimundo Nonato - Photo: Blog do Francisco Evangelista
July 24 And now for something completely different. Arrived at São Raimundo Nonato at 5 p.m. yesterday. Palace Hotel room = something like old stable, no glass window, overlooking morass. Realize that I've been awake/traveling for 48 hours. Go to buy pen at shop. Owner refuses to take my money. Say thanks and go down street. Followed by car.
It's the guy who gave me the pen. Asks if I want to have a beer. Joined by João Raimundo, fourth year law student who speaks perfect English. Sit talking at outside table, watching people begin to gather outside Palace Hotel. Suddenly town lights fail and we sit in darkness. Lights come on and reveal crowd outside hotel entrance.
The reason: “Lady Di” has arrived from São Paulo coming to sing for the locals!
They wait eagerly and so do I until midnight when at last “Lady Di” appears at hotel entrance and walks grandly over to next-door disco for her performance.
The “disco” is open, unroofed, more like a basketball court with three hundred people jammed into a hundred-by-fifty foot space. Chaos.

"Lady Di" sings to the packed crowd. She could've been the real thing, so swept away were they. Her concert over, she is followed back to the hotel entrance by adoring fans. I also make my exit.
As I write up these notes, the live disco band is belting out a tune. God knows what time this will go on till. I fear "Lady Di" will make a second appearance at 2 a.m.
If these people can be so easily swayed by their great "Lady Di," how much more by an Antonio Conselheiro!
I pray the lights fail in the next ten minutes. (They don't.)

Brazil - The Epic of a Great Nation


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