Learning more about Frutos

Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog

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The heavy rain from the weekend continued through most of the week putting a damper on our typical activities that revolved around the outdoors. It seems that the people of Salvador are always prepared for rain. When it starts pouring, all of a sudden everyone pulls an enormous umbrella out of nowhere. I always drew a lot of funny looks when I used my small automatic umbrella. The rain doesn't stop people in Salvador from carrying on with their usual activities like it does for us here in California (in the Bay Area, we are huge wimps when there are just a few light drops of rain). On Tuesday evening, it seemed like rain was done so we went to Bencao in Pelourinho. About 10 minutes after we arrived, it started pouring heavily. The fruitstand people told us to come stay dry under their stand. Then my housemate Tammy and I huddled under an umbrella with a few street kids and made our way to a cafe for shelter for a little bit. My sandals kept slipping off because my feet and the ground were so wet. We continued on huddled underneath the umbrella until we were at Habeas Copus, our regular Tuesday night spot. There was a huge crowd and everyone was trying to stay dry under the very limited covered area. It was almost impossible to get a dry table, but thankfully some other volunteers had gotten there early so we joined them. The band was going strong and there were a few hardcore forro-lovin' couples dancing in the rain.

It was an interesting week at Frutos de Maes, the school I was working at. We were starting to learn more of the details of the hardships of the school. They were hard-pressed for money and buying food for the kids' meals with promises to pay the stores back later. The teachers made 200 reais (about 100 dollars) for three months of work and hadn't been paid in three months. We had noticed that one of the better teachers in the school seemed more and more apathetic about her work. She was tired of working for free and told her volunteer that she was quitting that week. Another teacher also quit that week. The teacher for the older kids also disappeared and one day I saw him in an alley by the school playing cards. We heard different stories on the reasons why there was a lack of money for the school. One was that the goverment had given out the money that was necessary to keep the school going but it for some reason it never reached the school. Another was that the school accepted twice the number of kids than it recieved funding for because they couldn't turn kids away. There was definitely no doubt that the school was overcrowded. Regardless of the reason, their financial issues were ongoing which one of the reasons why they relied so much on volunteers at school both local and foreign. There was a very high turnover with teachers and the ones who were there were unmotivated. So volunteers who weren't counting on recieving a paycheck could potentially keep the school afloat.

My roommate Romy put in a request to the staff learn more about Candomble so they arranged a trip to visit terreiros (Candomble houses) with Fred, who would be our guide. Fred was a local professor who had given talks at the house and lead some CCS field trips. He explained the history of Candomble and its roots in West Africa and how it has been maintained over generations by Afro-Brazilians. The slave owners viewed the native religions of West Africa as paganism and witchcraft and banned them. But through syncretism, the defiant slaves secretly kept practicing their religion. They covered it up by assigning Catholic saints to their Orixas and they hid ritual objects behind Christian altars. Even after the end of slavery, Candomble was still considered to be taboo, but since then it has become more widely accepted. People of all races and classes are now followers of Candomble and many aspects of it are a major part of Bahian culture. The first house we went to was for Oxum, the Orixa of love, beauty and fertility. Next, we stopped at a house for Iemanja, the mother of living things and the owner of waters. Iemanja is one of the most popular Orixas in Salvador which makes sense because so much of life there revolves around the ocean. The house was right on the beach in the Rio Vermelho neighborhood of Salvador. Every February 2nd on that beach there is a celebration for Iemanja. Fishmerman take offerings of flowers, jewelry, perfume and other things to the sea. Of course, this is followed by a party!
sirenn9 says:
Your blog rocks! I definitely want to go to Brazil now!
Posted on: Jul 18, 2007
Eric says:
Am enjoying reading your blog! It is very well written and a great mix of history, narrative, and culture. Sounds like you had a great time in Brazil and I hope that you are enjoying reliving your experiences by sharing them with us.
Posted on: Apr 01, 2007
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