Monday, January 3, 2011

Brazil's Little Venice

Once a month, at the time of the full moon, the colonial town of Parati floods. The town's builders designed it that way, with a high-tide powered automatic street washing system.

I wasn't there for the full moon, so I didn't capture my own picture of the phenomenon, but here's someone else's image of the reason Parati is sometimes called "Brazil's Little Venice":

Here's one of the openings in the seawall allowing the water to come into the streets:

And here's one of the little bridges that enable people to get around town when the streets are flooded:

My one experience with flooded streets was the evening I had been drawn into a restaurant by the crooning of Frank Sinatra coming over their sound system. I loved the restaurant...not only because it had delicious food and my favorite Brazilian soft drink, Guarana:

But I loved it because of the charming young couple that ran the restaurant. When a middle-aged woman, clearly a friend of the couple, came into the restaurant, the young man greeted her with a kiss on the cheek, a common Brazilian custom, and then spent a few moments dancing with her to Sinatra's music. The wife came out of the kitchen, greeted the woman with a kiss also, and the three of them sat down and clearly enjoyed spending a few minutes chatting together.

It began to rain, so I hung out with the couple and their friends for quite some time, eventually realizing there was no avoiding a walk back to my pousada in the rain. So, I stepped out into the streets, which were full of water:

For the most part, I was able to stay on the sidewalks above the water, but occasionally the sidewalk would be blocked, and so I got quite wet, which was part of the fun.

I made my way back to my room at the "Prince's Pousada", owned by one of the royal family of Portugal, who also has a home in Parati.

Not only does a Portuguese royal live in Parati, but many artists live there. An artist gave me a tour of the town, including the shop where she and her husband sell their lovely paintings. Parati has a puppet theatre with large puppets not on strings, but manipulated by people dressed in black standing behind them. Parati has numerous annual festivals, including a big literary festival, where they hang children's books from the trees in the plaza for all the young people to enjoy. Some artists make pendants out of coins, like you see here:

Other artists weave things out of grasses and leaves, like this man:

who kindly gave me this little bug he'd made:

One of the things I most loved about Parati was the museum offering glimpses into the lives of the local people, through photos and audio recordings. Near that display were these fun windows, where some of the key phrases from the recordings were written in Portuguese on one pane and in English on the other, bringing the two languages together whenever the windows were opened.

A few of my favorites:

I was also charmed by Parati's four churches. This one was built specifically for women, who wanted an excuse to socialize with each other and get out of the house.

This church, the simplest one in the town, was built for the slaves:

This one, with its position along the harbor, is one of the symbols of Parati:

This one, interestingly enough, was partially funded by pirate's loot! A woman who had inherited much money from her father donated it. Her father had seen pirates hiding their loot, and then went to the hiding place later to steal it from them! The townspeople debated about whether or not it was appropriate to accept tainted money for the building of the church, but since they'd already spent about 90 years working on the church without being able to finish it, they decided to just accept the money and finish the church!

When the woman's father died, she knew it was the custom for major donors and prominent people to be buried below the church floor or in the church yard, but her father had been such a bad, mean-spirited person she wasn't sure she wanted to have him buried there. She solved the problem by burying him at the base of one of the church's stairways, so that he would know what it was like to be stepped on, just like he had done to people during his life.

The yellow sandstone used in this church came from Portugal. It wasn't shipped to Brazil because it was especially unique, but only because the empty ships coming from Portugal to pick up the gold flowing out of Brazil needed to be weighted down by something!

Here are a few more photos from Brazil's charming "Little Venice":

1 comment:

Lori said...

What a beautiful place....and a practical solution to street filth. I love it!