Brazil, Land of Contrasts - The Sublime and the Ridiculous

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 21
The Journey - Recife -  July 28 - August 13, 1980
August 7 Missed yesterday's entry: up at 6.30 to travel to Pumaty sugar mill and refinery, back 8 p.m. preparing for interview with Gonçalves de Mello till 10.30 leaving little time for notes.

Started today with visit to the state tourist authority, which for two days has been trying to meet a simple request: to obtain a map of the state. Result. “Is not possible.” Brazil, the sublime and ridiculous, the contrasts!

Where else would you, one day, visit one of the most sophisticated sugar estates in the world that not only grows 7,000 hectares of the stuff but mills it through a five-mill line up and then refines it for export... And the next day, encounter a state tourist authority that is unable to provide a simple map of the state!
Pumaty Engenho, Casa Grande, Pernambuco
Pumaty Engenho, chapel, Pernambuco
Pumaty Engenho, private chapel, Pernambuco
On Pumaty estate, there's a beautifully preserved Casa Grande, the pride of the owner. As I sat with him and his elegant wife, and the social worker they had employed to help their employees, I could not but glance at the wall behind them: dangling from an iron spike, prominently on display, was an slave ball and chain. Oh, the contrasts.

Slavery, relic - Pumaty, Pernambuco

This morning spent at Baptist seminary examining journals of last century Baptist missionaries. Rather simplistic though see that Taylor, one of earliest Baptist missionaries, actually notes occurrence of Canudos with somewhat confused interpretations. But more important was Baptist reports of the degree of intolerance present prior to the coming of the Republic and separation of State/Church. Repeated reports of attacks on missionaries, of anti-Protestant moves inspired by local priests, of Bible burnings etc.

The Baptists get vitriolic in their condemnation of the RC church as idolatrous, pagan etc. with numerous references by Taylor to idol worship in form of saints etc. Today the Baptists have 500,000 followers, as against 90 percent of 120 million Catholic, which shows the progress...

Day 31 of the trip. How far from that evening so long, long ago when I left Sintra and family at the station.

My confidence continues to soar. Today's interview with João Gonçalves de Mello, Recife's foremost historian, was typical. Impressed by my knowledge of Brazilian history. Ran basic outline of my story against him and 90 percent stood up without critique!

Realize that aside from the setting, atmosphere I am getting on the trip and basic groundwork already complete, when I get back I am going to have to read my way into the fine details of every traveler, every translation I can lay my hands on. This can be an ongoing process as the book develops, so that I'll have the background pretty well locked up. And then comes the “imagination!”

Note: TV reporting Bolivia's 195th coup!
BRAZIL - The Epic of a Great Nation

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