Chatting with Three Amigos in Pelourinho - Days 425
A day of sight-seeing, planning, wandering, seeing art, listening to drums and chatting with Three Amigos in Pelourinho
Our Airbnb was in a great location. If we turned left and walked up the road, we were right in the centre of Pelourinho, the oldest area of Salvador, once the capital of Brazil and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Instead, we turned right! Tim says it was to find coffee. Truth be told, we hadn’t got our bearings yet, and we do have a knack of going the wrong way. (According to Tim, there is no wrong way.)
After finding that the google map’s recommended café was nowhere to be seen, we managed to find the main square of Pelourinho, with its beautiful buildings, all painted in different colours, a sharp contrast from the crumbling dirty grey buildings around the corner where we’re staying; in their heyday, I’m sure, just as attractive.
We found a nice café with rather a lot of pictures with naked women in them! No wonder Tim wanted a photo of me there! Meanwhile, I read part of the Lonely Planet’s guide to check out the top spots. History comes out of nearly every building here, museums and churches galore.
We decided to book on a walking tour for tomorrow and found Aquarela Tours, the manager Gilberto welcomed us warmly, and we got chatting about travel. He used to live all over the place in America (His favourite was San Diego) and returned to his homeland a few years ago. He was sad to see quite a bit of racism in the USA, “the land of free” and shared about a time when a black guy was sitting on his own at lunchtime, so Gilberto, being a friendly chap, sat with him. The black guy was amazed as many white people wouldn’t sit with him, just because of the colour of his skin. Gilberto is actually of mixed heritage which includes Native American.
I told Gilberto about a great photo on Facebook I saw depicting the ridiculousness of racism. There were four eggs with various colour tones of shells, from dark brown to white. Then another photo of the eggs cracked open, all looking the same, just like us.
In Brazil, due to the history of the country, people mainly originate from three continents, Africa, Europe and the indigenous Americans. Interestingly, going back a few hundred years ago, the African slaves here lived with their “owners” and often were baptised, whereas, in the USA, they were segregated and seen as not human, without a soul. I imagine that this helped integrate the races here and hence, there is such a wonderful mix of people from every colour of the skin rainbow, living in harmony. I am sure there are some racists here, but let’s hope that these people are a minority and dwindling in numbers.
Moving on, after booking our tour, we walked around appreciating the baroque architecture, hearing plenty of drumming (Salvador is renowned for it) and window shopping. At one art gallery, we were admiring the canvases; they were collages of people and places beautifully assembled. We proceeded to have our second lovely chat of the day with the artist Washington Arléo. He has had exhibitions all over the world including New York, Barcelona and is mentioned in a few Contemporary Art books. He shared that he took some of his work into a school for blind children. As some of his work is tactile, it gave the children the opportunity to experience art through touch, and from his expression, I think he found the time with the students very profound.
We explained to Washington that we sold our house (a great excuse as it stops people trying to sell stuff to us). He loved the idea of our world travels and announced “The world is your home”, and he is right. We’ve even used this phrase since.
Just around the corner was one of the main tourist attractions, which also happened to be in the same road where we were staying; Igreja e Convento São Francisco. We first went in the Convent with one room lined with life-size figures of Saints, a rather opulent church and along the corridor covered in hand-painted blue and white azulejo tiles, was a room with the Priests robes, stairs down to the catacombs and various artefacts dotted around. We must admit that we did think one of the statues of Jesus was rather amusing. It looked as if he was wearing a blond wig! Now, as he came from Israel, surely he would have had dark hair.
Further along the street, we came across the main church. I had read of its magnificence: “filled with wealth and splendour…ornate wood carvings smothered in gold leaf” but even so, when we entered, I was in awe of the abundance of gold. The church was covered in it! It was like going into an Indiana Jones cavern filled with the hidden gold of some ancient King. The other thing that astounded me was the noise. No hushed tones of Cathedrals, Mosques and Temples we have visited around the world here, instead lots of chatting and loud voices from guides and visitors. A shame really. These buildings are a place for reflection, prayer and peace for all.
After lunch, we decided to visit the lower part of Pelourinho, known as the Comércio. We luckily came across a lovely old funicular, costing us R0.15 (£0.30), saving us the long steep climb down to the shoreline. We walked along and came to the harbour with a large covered market, the Mercado Modelo and many street sellers, including women braiding people’s hair. I was sorely tempted, but Tim has already waited for me patiently to have my hair done when in Cape Town. We walked into the market with hundreds of stalls; the usual touristy tat that I used to get tempted to buy. It was nice to wander around though.
Just beyond the market was a large cream statue like two pegs balancing on another two. We could see that it used to have water surrounding it and fountains either side, but now it is used as a much-needed shelter for some homeless people.
We crossed the road to reach the Art Deco Elevator Lacerda which would take us back up the 85m escarpment in 30 seconds to the Cidade Alta, where we were earlier. The very first link to these two areas was built by the Jesuits around 1610, back then it was a manual rope and pulley elevator. An iron structure was installed 1868 with an elevator moved by steam and then this Art Deco electrical lift in 1928. Again, this is one of the principal tourist sights to experience, but I must admit, I found the old funicular far more of an experience than just getting into a lift here. Oh dear, as Antonio Banderas once said: “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.”
Back at the top, after a well-deserved fresh juice, we came to the Largo do Pelourinho, the location of the first black slave market and also where public flogging took place. We sat, admiring the colourful buildings, and listening to some young men playing their drums and discovered that it was at this very spot that Michael Jackson performed “They Do Not Care About Us” for a video, produced by Spike Lee with the local drumming band Olodum. (notice he is wearing one of their t-shirts)
Later, in the evening, we found a delightful restaurant, filled with just us and one other couple. After we sat in a doorway in the central plaza listening and tapping our feet to some great live music. We got chatting to a local. Well, I say chatting, I haven’t a clue what the man was saying, but I think I was responding with “Si” in the right places and repeating some of his words so that he knew I was listening!
It is incredible how we can communicate with people with very little of their language and vice-versa. Through listening intently for any words we may recognise, observing their body language and facial expression and connecting from soul to soul, we had some wonderful chats with three Amigos here in Pelourinho.