Photo: Jamie Trecker/FOX Soccer
By: Jamie Trecker, FOXSoccer.com
BOA VIAGEM, BRAZIL
It’s the Festa de Sao Joao this weekend here on the Brazilian coast. Up and down the miles of beachfront, people are setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires, roasting various meats and generally being silly.
The Festa de Sao Joao is nominally a religious holiday. In Portugal, the Feast of Saint John is a major occasion on the calendar; apparently the same day stops traffic in Goa, India. Here, it is a mid-winter party also called the “festa junina,” which translates exactly to what you think it does. Up here, it is a two-week carnival – it rivals Carnival in importance in the state of Pernambuco – and it is celebrated with country festivals and large outdoor concerts. People also dress up in a simulacrum of “country” attire, which in the cases I’ve seen, means wearing hats with fake pigtails and penciling on freckles.
While there may be some religion involved here this weekend (and I am perhaps the wrong correspondent to ask about such matters) what I have seen is go-for-it, hoedown partying. Saturday, horse-drawn carts carrying stacks of firewood came into the center of Recife’s beach neighborhoods, and dumped cords right onto the sidewalk. Some of them remained there, to be set alight after sunset. It’s a bit jarring to walk by a blaze on a sidewalk, especially when it’s right outside a welding supply store, but that’s apparently all cool this weekend. They did look festive.
The shelves at the markets, the ones that usually hold all the beer? Those were as empty as Aberdeen on charity day this morning, and that’s saying something because Brazilians drink a lot of beer. Believe it or not, this country is the 4th largest brewer and consumer of the beverage, and it is sold everywhere, by just about everyone. You cannot go further than 50 yards without being offered a beer, and that’s regardless of whether you are on the sands, on the street, or trying to navigate a muddy, cracked road in the favelas. Drinks are sold out of battered coolers, the kind you would get at a truck stop. Bombers, about 660ml (that’s a pint and half, more or less) are put into special sleeves, to keep them extra cold.
Photo: Jamie Trecker/FOX Soccer
At a chicken shack, I watched a group of four men polish off a good twenty of these in the heat and then have some wings. Their consumption was not irregular: most people had a small litter of bottles around them and come to think of it, I had two myself. It’s darn hot here, despite being winter, and I have to admit, Brazil has perfected the refreshing pilsner. It’s not fancy, but after you walk a couple kilometers in the blazing heat, it’ll do the trick.
This is what passed for a good day here after weeks of turmoil. Families were on the beaches, not the streets. The shops were closed, the parks were full, and everyone seemed pretty happy.
Wednesday, that’s all expected to change. The protests that have roiled the nation are not going away, and actions are planned to hit every major city as the Confederations Cup hits the semifinal stage. Belo Horizonte is expected to be especially nasty, as is Rio and Sao Paolo.
But tonight, folks have taken a pause. Over the beach, someone’s setting off Roman candles. Down the block, vendors are hacking into green coconuts and sticking straws into them so kids can suck out the water. A band is to play later on, and then a DJ will take the crowd into the wee hours.
That’s the Brazil we expected when this Cup kicked off. We finally got it, if only for a night.
This piece is part of a series of pieces sponsored by the new Samsung Galaxy S4. The pictures that accompany this blog post were taken with it. I’m traveling across Brazil this month, and you should tell me what you’d like to hear about. Tweet me at @JamieTreckerFOX or use the #heytrecker hashtag @FOXSoccer.