Category: Brazil, 2014

Mujeres de Calafate

April 26

Returned to the world of the living, after a great night’s sleep. Very good breakfast served to us on a lovely little tiled patio in the hotel. Able to check emails as we await the start of our full day tour with Gabriela, which starts at 8 AM.

To circle back to yesterday, the ride from the airport is along a highway appropriate to a city of Salvador’s size, over 3 million. As we arrived midday, traffic was not horrendous, though Gabriela says that it is in rush hour. Very poor areas are mixed with new, modern buildings.


The transportation system languishes because of poor government supervision and corruption. The train extends for only 131/2 kilometers.

Last night’s dinner was ordered for us by Rodrigo and Fernanda, and consisted of traditional dishes of octopus and shrimp, called moqueca, served in two very large boiling pots of Palm oil and eaten with rice and a flour-like powder. We’d had crab appetizers, as they were delayed because their baby sitter for Julia was late.

Sorry for the diversion, now back to today. Our first and most interesting stop of the day was to see and get to know a serious social action project, Mujeres de Calafate, which works for positive results for those living in a social risk area. Situated in one of Salvador´s favelas (shanty towns), the project was started in 1992. It deals primarily with issues relating to protection of abused women and use of condoms. It’s members engage in various entrepreneurial projects to raise funds. We spent two and a half hours talking to three generations of women, starting with the 80-year old grandmother in whose house the operation is centered and including five adorable granddaughters around the age of 10, who both greeted us and, at the end, showed us off with hugs. They will be the next generation to carry on the work of the project. Our main contact was with a 24-year old, who looked about 15 and had a child two years ago. Gabriela, our guide, was fascinated with the group and served ably as our translator. We walked all around the hilly area with project members, including the young girls.







As we left the project people, Carol and I noticed a Seventh Day Adventist service in a sort of storefront setting. We wandered in and were received very warmly, with people giving us their seats and handing us prayer books and pointing to the place we were at in the service from time to time. We stayed about 15 minutes or so.


Next we went to a Cantambole area, where a religion that combines African gods with Catholicism is practiced. This is akin to the Santeria religion I’d seen in Cuba. I was very interested in this, and Gabriela was knowledgable and able to talk about it as we walked around the area and looked at the outside of the temple buildings. Unfortunately everything was closed up and there were no services being held, because of proximity to Lent. This was not Gabriela’s fault, but was very disappointing to me. On top of it, no photos were allowed. Bummer.

We were driven down to the port, for a brief stop to see some fishermen and a chapel to the mermaid goddess. From there we went to a little restaurant where we had small (meaning huge) sorbets, Carol mango and me and Gabriela, banana. They were delicious, filling and the cold really hit the spot. I had changed some money with Gabriela, rather than look for a bank. Her rate was considerably better than at the airport, because no fees were involved.

We went down to the very large marketplace and walked around for an hour. Gabriela explained what everything (vegetables, fruit, meat and other goods) was, and, telling us that the prices were less than half of what she generally pays, proceeded to buy eggs, nuts and something else. She is 47 years old, married to a 57-year old police officer and has a 17-year old son. She is zippy, open and fun. While the market was interesting enough, at this point carol and I have seen so many markets around the world that it was not new.

We stopped to buy tickets for a ballet folklorico performance tonight (after switching our plans with Rodrigo and Fernanda to tomorrow afternoon, since they could not find a baby sitter for Julia). I noticed a sign that seemed to me to suggest that there were discounts for old farts like us. Gabriela asked. Fifty percent off. Yes! It occasionally pays to be old. We walked around the area near our hotel a bit, trying unsuccessfully to get money from a bank ATM, and then Gabriela walked us back to our hotel, where we rested before our evening activities. Not to ruin the suspense, but the evening started out really good, and ended up really not so good at all.

After having our complimentary drinks at our hotel, we walked to a restaurant recommended by Gabriela a few blocks away in the Hotel Villa Bahia. There we had a terrific dinner in a little patio area. I had the sea bass over black rice with a coconut crust and vegetables. Carol had a mushroom and vegetable ragout over palenta. Excellent.

We taxied to the Teatro Castro Alves for the Ballet Folklorico, arriving almost an hour early. The performance was quite spectacular and some of the elements were memorable, including the opening in which the entire cast marched down the aisles singing, a guy who played a really weird and interesting sounding instrument, some incredible drumming and some very acrobatic male dancers. The program could definitely have benefited from some judicious trimming, but it was overall well worth seeing.

Taxied back to the hotel area where, walking down the street a young guy ripped a thin gold chain off of Carol’s neck and ran off. She was unhurt, but upset at having lost the necklace she’d had for forty years. We’d been warned about this, and Carol had been told not to wear necklaces, but still…I guess at least we can say that we had an authentic Brazilian experience. Worse than losing the necklace, Carol lost the seat she uses to help her back, apparently having left it in the taxi. The guy at our hotel called the taxi company to report it, so perhaps the driver will find and return it. But that seems rather unlikely. So, a lousy end to the day.

4 comments to Mujeres de Calafate

  • Zoe-Bug

    Sorry about the end to the day. Can you ask Gee-Gee to send me some of that mango sorbet? I love your pictures, especially the one with the five girls.

  • lauri pollack

    Thank you for such a wonderful description…..with the photos I feel like I am there. Love it. But, I don’t love Carol’s necklace experience. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Not a great feeling for her, I’m sure.

    Have a great day.


  • Kay Osborne

    So sorry about the incident and losing the seat support. Grrrr.

  • Wendy

    Aw, Maz! That totally stinks! Sounds scary, even a bit traumatizing. And I can’t imagine someone yanking a chain off like that without it hurting at all. How’s your back and how’s the ole platter working out?

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