While the rest of Brazil celebrates independence on September 7th, here in Salvador, Bahians take the streets on “dois de Julho” (July 2nd), when after several battles the province finally expelled the Portuguese, several months ahead of Emperor Pedro the First’s official declaration of independence.
Along with the rest of city, we headed to Pelourinho, the historic heart of Salvador, where the major independence day parade takes place. The parade occurred in several acts, as each part was punctuated by breaks during which the onlookers, which had previously separated to the sides, flooded the steep narrow-bricked streets to buy the flags, cotton candy, ice-cream, and sweet coconut-lime juice which is basically ambrosia in a plastic cup.
However, after several spurts of marching bands, the parade commenced in full force and everyone joined in, spectators marching alongside feathered natives and uniformed bands, a jumbled mixture framed by the tawny uniforms of the police, who separated the celebration from the few of us still observing the spectacle, perched on the outside edge. Even so, the Brazilians in our group urged us to move our hips along to the beats of the parade, blurring further whatever divide there was between the dancers in the streets and the spectators on the sides.
View of the old Medical School Building (1808) from our parade spot.
Many of the decorations were actually remnants of the Festival of São João that happened days before we arrived in June.
Fighters of independence
One of many marching bands
The vendors here never cease to amaze
CIEE staff and student monitors! (From left: Jacob, Nataniel, Flavia, Luize, Rebeca, Renaldo, Mariel)
I have no idea what this guy is doing with a cow’s head…
All-female drumming group
The hat makes the outfit
Some of the participants in the parade were dressed as actors in the story of independence as Portuguese soldiers, slaves, and indigenous Brazilians.
A float representing the characters involved in independence. On top of the float is the indigenous, Brazilian, European racially-mixed figure of the Caboclo, which symbolizes Independence.
Even Jesus made an appearance in the parade
The parade was much more political than any other I’ve seen, most likely due to the recent “maniftestações”, or protests, that have been occurring throughout Brazil’s major cities, including Salvador, over the high cost of transportation and the politicians’ precedence of World Cup 2014 above the problems of the people. Certainly President Dilma Rousseff’s inattentiveness doesn’t help the situation.
“To fight is not a crime. Liberate our prisoners.”
Lining the streets…
“There does not exist a cure for what is not sickness.” At several different points, I was crushed against the wall as packs of protestors passionately chanted slogans. And yet, the atmosphere was still jovial as the people watching cheered on those demonstrating, and the entire procession remained peaceful.
Spectators, such as Luize, even grabbed demonstrates signs to pose for pictures in support of their cause: “I also want a better Brasil.”
As with any celebration in Bahia, the festivities concluded with everyone clearing the streets, headed to the nearest restaurant to memorialize the day with beer, moqueca (fish and vegetable stew), and, of course, a feast of feijão (comida típica da Bahia). Que gostozo!