Viagem Brazil: Despite unfinished construction, Salvador’s party rages
It means, roughly, don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do after tomorrow.
That seems to be Salvador’s approach to its unfinished, ongoing World Cup preparations. The city remains under construction, with some areas fenced off downtown and near the beach and restaurant patios half completed, not to mention rampant poverty.
But on a lazy Sunday that started with rain and finished with dozens clapping, drumming and cheering another sunset on the beach, it all seemed OK with most. That’s Salvador, the king of Carnival and so-called Capital of Happiness.
The influences were colonial and African. Olodum, the city’s famous percussion ensemble that performed in a music video Michael Jackson filmed here, a group that developed the sounds of samba reggae, drummed its way – thwap, thwap, thwap – passed throngs of tourists from Germany and Portugal. Stores hawked art and colorful paintings and handcrafted statues at Mercado Modelo, a former slave market. Ribbons every color of the rainbow hung over the streets. Churches rose from every corner, with ornate columns and oversized bells, some in better shape than others.
Inside the square, life seemed far removed from the beaches where drug addicts slept on sidewalks and low-level dealers peddled cocaine and marijuana. There were so many empty buildings with paint long peeled and windows broken that some blocks looked more like ruins. Visitors en route to Salvador heard the same refrain. Be careful. Reporters in town for the World Cup were pickpocketed this week.
Everything was for sale, open to donations. So many hands were out. Women wore traditional Bahian dresses, so colorful and sequined and puffed around the waist and below, as they posed for pictures with the tourists. Other locals offered tours or sold cigarettes. Drummers drummed, hoping for a kickback. Others just held out hands or cans. “You know the song, Can’t Buy Me Love?” asked our translator, Filipe Sousa. “Not here.”
But while everyone welcomed the World Cup and the tourists that descended, some chose not to give FIFA a pass, like Elicia Blodgett, an American from Connecticut who arrived in Salvador eight years ago to volunteer and never left.
“I hate FIFA with a passion,” she said. “If I had the power to send them to hell, I would. They’re not present here. The tourists are lost. They aren’t paying taxes. They keep all the profit. They’re not investing here at all, and they’re changing laws.”
Like the one against serving beer in stadiums – which, Blodgett noted, were created “because people died.”
The World Cup rolled on. Dollars exchanged hands. The party continued unabated, even if the song title resonated, too.
This is the eighth piece in a series throughout the opening weeks of the World Cup in which SI senior writer Greg Bishop and photographer Simon Bruty chronicle their travel to offer a taste of the cultural side of Brazil. They continue their trip in Salvador, the capital of Bahia.