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Published: January 15th 2015
Well, it is pretty hard to get this blog updated all the time when travelling to all these wonderful places. And Carla is keeping me busy as hell with her planed approach to sightseeing. It looks like I need a holiday from the backpacking soon. And Porto Alegre was not different with the added bonus that Carla was born and has lived in POA for a long time, so she knew the place pretty well and I was dragged around every place there was to see. Not that I complain as I got a superb tour of the city, but an old man like me needs its rest from time to time. But let’s see what happened in POA.
São Paulo was our starting point to get to Porto Alegre and in true backpacking style we, or to be honest I, decided to make the trip by bus. Now Brazil is a huge country and that means that the distances to be covered are huge as well. So this trip was an 18 hour overnighter and it was not a breeze. I have to say that I was proud as punch of Carla, as she is not used
to this kind of travel, and she took the trip without a word of complained. Most of the time she slept so deep that I thought she must have taken a sleeping pill.
After arriving in Porto Alegre we checked into the hotel and straight away we hit the pavement to see the place. Now one of the interesting things in Brazil is that every city is different from others, not only in size and area, but in who founded the place a long, long time ago.
Porto Alegre (translated Joyful Harbour) is the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state (at south it borders Uruguay and at north it borders Santa Catarina State). POA is also the capital city of the Pampas region, the name given to the region of fauna and flora typical of the vast plains that dominate the landscape of the South of Brazil, part of Argentina and Uruguay. This is where the Gaúcho comes from, the historical figure of a “brave warrior” that fought legendary wars in the past. So people born here are called “Gaúcho” in Brazil and Rio Grande do Sul as well –
doesn’t matter if they are ethnic Gaúcho, who lives in a farm, around barbecue, horses, or if they are from a German or Italian city or in the Jewish neighbourhood of Bom Fim in Porto Alegre.
The city was founded at the end of the 19th
century by immigrants from Azores, Portugal. In the late 19th century the city received many immigrants from all over the world, particularly Azoreans, Germans, Jews from Germany and East Europe, Italians, Polish and Spanish. And one can see that in the old buildings in the city. One of the many immigrants that was responsible for many buildings was a German architect called Theo Wiederspahn, who immigrated to Brazil in 1908 from Wiesbaden. He started working as an architect for Rudolph Ahrons’s engineering firm in Porto Alegre. Together they revolutionized the urban landscape of the city, and many of his works became part of its artistic cultural heritage. So one can see the influence of these immigrants all over the city.
POA is much smaller that Rio or Sao Paulo and it is a charming place. The parks are a delight but as usual here in Brazil there is a lot of graffiti
around and not all of it is nice stuff. But one gets used to it. POA also has a lot of museums that we visited and of course a central market. But to be honest, after the markets in Sao Paulo, this market was rather small and had nothing special to see. Guess I got spoiled with other markets. What was interesting and unique to the market was stuff related to Gaúchos, as Cuias (kind of a Samovar) for drinking Chimarrão (as they call Yerba Mate, typical beverage in Rio Grande do Sul State), different kinds of yerba mate, around the knives, jackboots and breeches so admired by Gaúchos.
One night Carla took me to a Centre of Gaucho Traditions, a place with local folk music and dances and typical south Brazilian barbecue. It was an interesting show. Those dances are among the oldest in Brazilian popular dances and its origins go back Spain in the 17th
century. In them is present the knighthood spirit and respect to women, a characteristic of local peasants. The barbecue was amazing except for the Chicken hearts they love here so much…..
One of the many places we went was
the Museum Júlio de Castilhos, which tells the story about the Farroupilha Revolution, a separatist movement which took place in Porto Alegre and several cities between 1835 and 1845. It was an attempt to secede Rio Grande do Sul State from Brazil and started in Porto Alegre. An elitist movement deep inside, commanded by farmers influenced by Freemasonry, Republicanism and French Revolution ideals who were disgusted with the Brazilian Empire (not Portuguese Empire anymore, but Brazilian Monarchy) due to harsh taxes over a local kind of meat production they exported. Through economic history of South Region, meat production became the main focus of economy in Rio Grande do Sul. The national taxes were causing problems into the local profit of those Gaúcho farmers because of the expensive final price of local meat. Around this, there was the commercial competition with products in Argentina, which left the economy in RS to an unsustainable situation. So, farmers from RS went in search of agreements in order to assure national governmental measures that could guarantee the South monopoly over meat commerce.
Those farmers also wished a largest autonomy of the RS State (at the time Provincial Government) and the right to choose
the “President of the Province” – who was at the time nominated by the Emperor. The revolt began with the invasion of Porto Alegre in 20th
September of 1835 (this day is still strongly celebrated until today in Porto Alegre and Rio Grande do Sul, with parties, typical Gaúcho dances, parades etc
The movement had many leaders and influential participants, being the most important Bento Gonçalves and the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Giuseppe Garibaldi is known as “the hero of two worlds”, because he fought for the separation of Rio Grande do Sul, which would become “República Rio-Grandense” or “Republic of Piratini”, and later he fought for the unification of Italy. Garibaldi left the war because in a battle in Santa Catarina State he knew Anita, a Portuguese descent woman with whom he later moved to Italy. Anita Garibaldi and Giuseppe Garibaldi are buried in Italy. With the money he gained in Rio Grande do Sul, in the Farroupilha Revolution, he obtained resources to later help in the promotion of Unification in Italy.
In Porto Alegre and all over Rio Grande do Sul Garibaldi is so praised that he is the name of the building where Carla lived
all those years in Porto Alegre (and his Brazilian wife gives the name of her former street, Anita Garibaldi) and also is the name of Garibaldi, one of the main Italian cities in Rio Grande do Sul.
Without winners at the end, this conflict perpetrated the myth of the Gaúcho that is until our days praised in songs, celebrated in annual pageants and honoured as names of streets and parks in Porto Alegre. Until today is the only Brazilian State where the people sings first the Hymn of Rio Grande do Sul and later the Brazilian Hymn. The lyrics say things as “people who don’t have a pride, ends as a slave” and the like.
Since it was only two days to Christmas Carla and I had some Christmas shopping to do. And the ones of you who know me also know how much I hate that stuff, so we did this in record time. And then we spent Christmas Eve with Carla’s mother which was fun. Carla’s mother went out of her way to make me feel welcome and it was a great night.
Christmas day was I day were I thought I would
get some rest as all the shops and museums were closed, but no such luck. Carla already planned ahead and we visited the cemeteries. Again, it was very interesting all the grave monuments and at the Lutheran cemetery it was nice to see all the German inscriptions. How many people have left their homeland just to find rest in foreign soil. Another one is the Santa Casa Cemetery, Catholic.
So Carla and I explored this city for the next days, including one of the football stadium of Grêmio. FussBall Club, founded by Germans in 1903. Now most people in town follows the teams of Grêmio or its rival, Internacional. The Grêmio stadium is pretty impressive. No wonder if one considers how fanatical the Brazilians are about football. Added bonus was that the German team trained at the stadium during last year’s world cup. Nice one.
Now the only unpleasant situation we encountered was when one day we had lunch right in the middle of the city. Now Brazil is known for their gangs and violent crimes, so when we were in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo we were always careful and cautious. But
nothing happened and we really didn’t see any crime at all. So the last place we expected it was Porto Alegre. So here we were sitting down for lunch when suddenly we heard gun shots and people started sprinting away in all directions. About 50 meter from us a group of people just hit the deck and one guy with a hand gun was running about 5 meters away from us. Carla was first not aware what was happening until I told her to get to ground which she did. Nothing happened to us, but it was a freaky situation. Ah well, we are in Brazil after all…
So that is it about Porto Alegre. All in all a great time with interesting outings and some excitement as well. On the 28th
Carla and I took off with a car into a town about 2 hours away from Porto Alegre to spend New Year there. But that is one story for the next update.
Hope you enjoyed this update and there are about 5 more to come to get up to date. So I promise I will do them soon.
Take care wherever you are and have a fantastic time.
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