O Carnaval: Dia Um

February 14, 2010

We spent yesterday walking along the beachfront of Fortaleza, scoping out the Carnaval venue and trying to get a feel for what this city is like.  The answer is that most of it seems pretty mediocre–crumbling cement and brick buildings, empty streets, hotels from the 1970s, drug stores and nameless sorvetterias–but there’s a little bit of a nicer area along one stretch of the water.

Carnaval was extremely fun.  We started it off by going to a Valentine’s Day dinner last night because the restaurant that Scott had discovered as the best in town ($15 entrees) was only open yesterday and wouldn’t be open again until Thursday.  The restaurant, Mercado, was empty, save for one other table.  It was almost classy, with a rustic wooden table in the middle and nice-ish wrought iron chandeliers, but the chairs were still stained and the table cloths were a tired floral print.  We’ve seen this empty restaurant phenomenon before, last year in Salvador.  But we embraced it this time.  There was an acoustic guitarist, who, in a nod to the gringos, sang some version of “New York, New York” between his Brazilian easy-listening set.

From dinner we went to the Praia Iracema where the bandshell was set up.  Our cab driver let us out a few blocks away, and when I guess we hesitated for a minute, he told us, unprompted, “Esta tranquilo.”  It’s okay here, don’t worry. We went to where the crowd was gathered, and like so many other events here that we’ve been to (it felt like Reveillon, or the day Rio won the Olympic bid), there were people selling beers from styrofoam coolers, and agua de coco and meats on sticks. Couples and groups of friends gathered on the sand and parents brought children who eventually grew tired and dozed on shoulders.  Everyone was dancing and happy.  At 11pm, Diogo Nogueira came on, the main act to kick off carnaval in Fortaleza.  With much introduction, he came on wearing a white suit, with a white wife-beater tank top on underneath.  He looked a little bit like a Brazilian Justin Timberlake and as his voice carried over the crowd, feet started flying.  Samba is extremely fun to watch, it was at Carioca da Gema and it was here, too.  It’s fun to see it start, like a secret, that spreads from one person to another as they just can’t help moving along with the music.  There was a group of girls who were about nineteen, who were laughing and dancing with each other, cool and relaxed.  There was a ten-year-old girl in knee length denim shorts and white and pink tank top just tearing it up, the music coursing through her, from her bent elbows, through her hips to her feet. Best of all, there were two guys, both shirtless, wearing shorts–one guy was wearing yellow shorts, the other green–sneakers, and one of them had a Brazilian flag tied around his head, dancing in a circle created by the crowd.  They weren’t young, and both had small pot-bellies, but their dancing was amazing.  They exuded happiness, and I wish I could have dipped their feet in paint to follow their tracks, a million mini-steps.

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One Response to “O Carnaval: Dia Um”

  1. Shane berezowski said

    I know Fortaleza. Horrible city. Dangerous, ugly with rude and ignorant people. It is not brazil

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