Salvador

Carlitos at Pelô

José Carlos Capinan

The 13-Cabula made the Jandaia curve, entering Baixa dos Sapateiros, loaded with blacks on the footboard, wearing white linen jacket. A streetcar full of blacks, all neatly lined and elegant. I looked at its passing, with anguish; I could not miss that tram. Carlos was waiting for me in front of Cine Pax. I really wanted this meeting, essential for me. Carlos would take me to a meeting at Pelourinho, a meeting full of mysteries, special subjects. I could not miss it.

Praia da Barra

“Carlos, go, be gauche in life …” he recited lively, staring at me with a baiano[1] way of willing, and said at the end, smiling all the seduction of his white teeth – “it is a poem of mine …” Would it be? Carlos was all very strange, always changing names. In our first meeting, he introduced himself: “Nice to meet you, Ary Carlos Barroso.” And, later, many others, Carlos Cachaça, Carlos Jobim and even Charles Anjo 45, “I’m illegal, gypsy” … he said, in a way of playing with his own fate.

The tram was noisy, dancing on the tracks, Cabula-13. I had to get at Cine Pax at 1:30, the matinee began at 2 o’clock. I could not miss it, Carlos was waiting.

It was then that I came to that decision of hopping on that tram, catch some footboard in the middle of the crowd …I could not miss it, it was risky but I could not pass up that chance that fate was giving me. I had to take that tram …and jumped over the vast gap between the sidewalk and the footboard …Then I did not see anything, just a picture that I have now in hand, in which I do not see myself or the 13-Cabula. It’s another streetcar, 24-Rome, full of Filhos de Gandhi[5] (Sons of Gandhi), coming from downtown to the carnival. And I see Carlos among them, that bastard baiano.

It’s another streetcar, 24-Rome, full of Filhos de Gandhi (Sons of Gandhi), coming from downtown to the carnival.”

But they say Carlos was killed in an ambush. How? – he should be, at that time, in front of Cine Pax. On a street in São Paulo, in a Volkswagen? What could have happened on that jump, did I miss the tram? What time is it, what day is it today?

I wake up in a hospital, the leg immobilized and I can’t remember what happened. I stupidly slipped at home and it was like falling into an abyss. I do not remember anything, I had dreams. I need to retake my appointments and answer no, soon – “This bank exists in order to make a new country emerge, so many mistakes before. We can’t miss the train of history again… Let’s take a beer to celebrate the Brazilian encyclopedia; I want you to talk about the parties of Bahia people, in Salvador, capoeira[2] at Pelourinho …”

Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim

Sorry, Carlos … I missed the tram … I must say when I meet him – hence the delay … Where’s the party? I was thinking of excuses to give when I see him, while hastening the steps and tried to wear down the time. “On Baixa do Sapateiro I found one day the most dandyish brunette in Bahia …” He would sing and even say that he made this samba for me. The crowd is dragging me into Santa Barbara Market…berimbaus [3], drums, how can I get out of this crazy party, Carlos is waiting for me …eparrei

The crowd is dragging me into Santa Barbara Market…”

Blurry lipstick, exaggerated, as a transvestite, she grabs my hand, looks into my eyes and asks. ”Do you want to know your destiny? Mrs. America is never wrong, the cards never lie. Carlos is alive… waiting for you. Run, go meet him. He awaits you in the back of Rosário dos Negros church. Run, in the middle of the Mass, the carnival begins, have faith in Iansã and in my cards … Wear a costume, run. Enjoy the party, Olodum [4] is rehearsing at Pelô.”

Festa popular em Mangue Seco (BA)

Eparrei …What our eye sees is not present, neither past nor future … it is the abyss bottom … where poverty is born again and again …don’t think it bothers me … I walk past it, pass myself off as a tourist, lost in the carnival, and I enjoy myself as people do … To Pelô, where everything is mixed, more people will come from the suburbs to occupy the center of this story, Mussurunga, Mata Escura, Periperi, Paripe, Suçuarana, where it all began everything goes on, reproducing, since the days of the colony and empire to the republic, discontinuous speech where powerful and oppressed oppose, yesterday on slavery, today in capoeira of vote and in the contagious voice of the drums … “I heard from the background, Carlos spoke to a huge audience, all dressed up in nega maluca (crazy denies), muquiranas[5], (cheapskates), Filhos de Gandhi[5] (Sons of Gandhi), Mercadores de Bagdá[5] (merchants of Baghdad), Apaches do Tororó[5] (Tororó Apaches) … capoeiras[5] and poetas da praça[5] (poets of the square).

“It was here that the slave was beaten up. It is here that the pedagogy of the drums of Olodum band beat the tambour, facing the sometimes silent but always active prejudice. It is here that on blessing Tuesday the political wisdom of syncretism goes on, trying to unmask the hypocritical racial democracy … it is here that the soteropolitano, people of this nation-city, blacks, mulattos, whites, go up and down looking for jobs, looking for love, looking for drunkenness, looking for an ephemeral foreigner woman for the delicious and difficult art of being. Ylê passes by.

It is here that the soteropolitano, people of this nation-city, blacks, mulattos, whites, go up and down looking for jobs, looking for love, looking for drunkenness, looking for an ephemeral foreigner woman for the delicious and difficult art of being.”

I cannot believe what I read, although the outcome was expected. Carlos was dismissed from the direction of the Bank. He was seen conspiring a big carnival. Development is no party. Development is sacrifice of the people and profit of bankers, so thinks the elite. But Carlos never wanted to own the bank, good. Good a damn. There must be people like us there, people from the party … people from Candomblé… Earth in trance, now I realize what scrambles Brazilians’ heads, it is chaos, the severino Congress, my father’s unemployment and the new slogan everything for everyone. Hmmm tasty iced beer…

Will I myself one day do my speech, looking for the party that Carlos ordered? I think of the celebration of my independence, my July 2, watching the mullato going down the Freedom Road to occupy the Shrine of Jesus, the center of everything. And me, a black Woman, celebrating my true July 2…

“The tram is full of legs …white legs …yellow, why so many legs, my God? Asks my heart, my eyes don’t ask anything … “Says Carlos spying on me … and my eyes gaze at his eyes wanting me. And from this superb set of ruins, the windows gaze. Spying the not always dumb or hot blondes but stupidly iced, they spy the crazy ones, spy the poets, the angola and regional capoeiras, the samba, the networks of street boys and girls, offering small and big opportunities, peanuts, crack and child sex, the windows spy the scoundrels’ parties going up and down with faith the tiring slopes of time and turning the dangerous corners of the speech of seriously placed voices of the oligarchs of progress, who built and wrecked the houses and badly distributed the leftovers.

At Pelô, we can see that from the satires of Gregory to the manifests of Olodum, from baroque to afro, Bahia is proud of something that is not in the appearance of new malls (…)”

From Pelô, the center where the city started was transferred with all its property and all its evils. At Pelô, we can see that from the satires of Gregory to the manifests of Olodum, from baroque to afro, Bahia is proud of something that is not in the appearance of new malls and do not always emerge so unambiguous as the newspapers and television want it to. The blacks take pride in their hair … In this reverie, I take a bump. What time is it? My watch was taken…

I’m lost. What will arise, yet not manifest, from this search of mine for Carlos? What will be the end of this story that has for centuries lain in the yards, climbs slopes, invades invasions, in the plains, the choreography and the story lines of the carnivals? It certainly is for something freer and more popular.

“And what is the time now? Don’t you think that we are on Baixa dos Sapateiros of the past century, watching elegant blacks in a crowded tram, dressed for a party of the future. We are already in the new millennium. And where’s the country of the future? Oh, my fellows, time is a bird of vagueness. From the opposing forces that cross Largo do Pelô, will rise a new time, I believe.” It’s Carlos speaking.

Baía de Todos os Santos, Elevador Lacerda e Mercado Modelo

Scatter … disperse … I heard voices and gunshots. In the middle of the scared crowd, yet I saw him trying to escape through the back of the church … I’ve got to meet him at Cine Pax, at two o’clock. He’s invited me to see a Charlie Chaplin film.

The 13-Cabula made the Jandaia curve, entering Baixa dos Sapateiros, loaded with blacks on the footboard, wearing white jacket made of linen. A streetcar full of blacks, all neatly lined and elegant. I could not miss that tram.

Footnotes

[1] From the State of Bahia.
[2] Leg wrestling: technique of sudden, violent assault, characterized by agile movements of the body, a dancing fight developed by slaves.
[3] A musical instrument consisting of a wire string attached to a flexible kow and gourd that is plucked either by a coin or the finger or hit with a small stick.
[4] Cultural group based in the Afro Brazilian community of Salvador largely centered on music.
[5] Cultural group based in the Afro Brazilian community of Salvador largely centered on music.