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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Two fascinating men, some drums and the stairs - Day 421

We so love meeting interesting people on our travels. Yesterday in Santa Teresa our day was about finding out about two fascinating men, some drums and the stairs.

We were just walking past a garage with its two wooden doors open; tucked into the hill of one of the steep, winding cobbled roads here in Santa Teresa. Sitting in the shade of the garage was a man with leather brown skin and a bright pillar box hat on, cutting strips of plastic. As we passed by, we stopped, we were curious as to what he was doing, returned and started talking with him. Luckily Foguete Barreto can speak excellent English.

It sounds as if Foguete lived around Europe for some time, Paris for 9 years, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan and a couple of visits to London. He is a musician and makes his own instruments. We had the pleasure of being shown around his work studio, the garage, listening to him play some weird and wonderful instruments. One had a very eerie sound, which would go well in a Hammer horror movie. Another, he beat with homemade drumsticks with the heads made from painted champagne corks. The sound was more melodic and the three of us swayed to the rhythm, all with big grins on our faces.

Foguete shared that his dream is to travel the entire length (over 2,650 miles) of Chile by bicycle. On his journey, he wants to play his drums and make some to sell. He explained that he can easily get Polypropylene to build the base, with a local material to cover it, skin for the top, rope to hold together and cork for tuning. What a resourceful man. He aims to go in 2020. What a shame that it’s not this year, we could have met up with him.

Before meeting him, we had walked down to the famous vibrant Escadaria Selaròn. These are 125m of steps that Chilian artist Jorge Selaròn decorated with bright coloured tiles from 1990. Walking down the stairs, they looked just like any other concrete stair, apart from the shiny red tiles adorning some of the walls with colourful patterns and blocks of picture tiles. But when we looked back, we could see the stunning mosaics.

Selaròn started his project mainly using blue, green and yellow to represent and honour the Brazilian flag. I’m not sure the reason why he began to use other colours. Occasionally, a step would have a word depicted from the mosaics, such as ‘Rio de Janeiro’ and ‘Escadaria Selaròn’; however on one step ‘Kazakhstan’ was spelt out. I wonder why.

From looking at some of the individual tiles, this project definitely seems as if became a collaboration between him and visitors. He was certainly not a rich man, and I cannot believe that he collected all these tiles himself. There are tiles from New York, Naples, Canada, and Dusseldorf; tiles with motifs of brands such as Coca Cola and the Michelin tyres, expensive ornate handmade and manufactured plain tiles. I can imagine that it must have been exciting for him receiving packages in the post of tiles from all around the world. What will it be? Where from? Where shall it go?

Sadly, at the age of 65, this fascinating man, who selflessly transformed a dull grey staircase linking the rundown Lapa area with Bohemian Santa Teresa to probably the most fantastic staircase in the world, died in mysterious circumstances. Now he also would have been an extraordinary person to chat to, don’t you think?

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