Monday, October 3, 2011

Dia 33: Turning pretty little words into pretty big actions . . .

We checked into Beach Class hotel in Recife late last night, just in time for me to wolf down some dinner and whip up a blog post. We arose bright and early (literally -- the sun rises around 3 AM here) this morning, and met Ed Bresnyan in the lobby. Ed works on World Bank agriculture and rural development projects here in Brazil, and took us to see two very special ones today.

We first visited the indigenous Xukuru community just outside of Pesqueira (about 3 hours from Recife, which gave me plenty of time to catch up on sonnets from the past few days). Historically, Xukuru people were victims of indentured servitude, working on large livestock plantations until as recently as 1988. This particular group has developed a milk collection and cooling facility, which benefits 260 of the 2,000 households there. We had a meeting with a representative who explained the community structure and beliefs before going into the specifics of the facility. Most evident were the trade-offs that had to be made in order for the facility to be feasible while still upholding the group's culture and heritage.

After the meeting, we visited one of the cooling tanks, before heading onward to a Churrascaria for lunch. From there, we were off to Vicencia (3 hours from Pesqueira). Just outside of town is the Quilombola Community of Trigueiros. (Quilombolas are descendants of escaped slaves, among the poorest and most remotely located rural communities in Brazil.) We approached the community via a dirt road through fields of sugarcane (which, of course, reminded me of Punjab).

When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of jubilant village officials in matching "Quilombola Pride" t-shirts. The leader of the group was a strong and friendly middle-aged woman, who gave each of us a big hug and an even bigger smile as we exited our car. A kindly older woman also gave each of us a tight hug. It was like coming home to family! They told us they had been waiting for us all day, and proceeded to give us a tour of their charming town. We saw the playground, school, lovely church, convenience store, and association office. In addition, they showed us a government-donated building which they hope to make into a multipurpose space using funds from the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF). After some delicious snacks in the office, we moved to the village square and had an impromptu open-air meeting. Cyprian Uncle thanked them for their welcome, and my dad mentioned the fact that 2011 is the United Nations Year of Afrodescendants. The two went on to emphasize that positive social development starts from small (yet crucial) communities such as that of the Quilombolas.

When Papa closed by thanking and mentioning how much at home I felt among them, they all turned to me and asked me to say something! Speaking ex tempore is harder than I thought!! But what I ended up saying was that I've taken a year to travel the world, and I'm going to India soon, to be able to feel the warmth and comfort I always feel there. Little did I know that I could find places that feel so welcoming and home-like in such a completely different part of the world. I'm sure Ed made this sound much more eloquent when he translated it into Portuguese for them, because they broke into applause. It was so cute. And then a young man asked my father for permission (imagine!) to have his photograph taken with me. Everyone stood around beaming as his wish was granted and then we said our goodbyes.

We were home in a few hours and I had to drag my exhausted self to dinner at Camarada, which turned out to be a lovely local seafood place. 
 And now -- to sleep, perchance to dream . . .


  1. So awesome! I ant even describe how cool it is that you got to visit such a benevolent place!

  2. This is such a cool story! The people seem more caring and compassionate than some that I know back in VA! who would have thought? (:

  3. simple folks r always more carin as their minds r not crippled by ideas.........