Tag Archives: poverty

New neighbourhood, old issues

The new view makes it all worthwhile

The new view makes it all worthwhile

We are now living in Cabula, a district of Salvador with a distinctly African-sounding name that is home to one of its greatest terreiros (Afro-Brazilian temples). According to Wikipedia – caveats duly noted – this area used to be a maroon settlement, or quilombo, formed by escaped slaves of Bantu origin – from cultural groups currently found in Angola. Cabula is also the name of a secret 19th-century sect that combined elements of Spiritism, Islam and Bantu religious beliefs. Powerful stuff! I have also found that Cabula might also be the name of a town or region in Angola itself. Any confirmation of that will be greatly appreciated.

One thing I noticed right off when we moved into our new place was the high level of security – or at least, security preparedness. We received lots of keys, but the main doors to the two buildings in the complex are most always open. Now I know what all the keys are for.

Early this morning, before 6 am, I heard loud voices outside my bedroom door, which also leads to the outer staircase and the top end of the lift shaft. The building management had already advised us about a scheduled power outage that was supposed to start at 8 am, so I thought the voices and banging I heard were maintenance workers getting a head start. I almost popped my head out the door to complain. So glad I didn’t.

After tossing and turning in bed for a while, I heard more voices, and then the original two identified themselves as “police”. That gave me a chill, because the last time someone had shouted “police” outside my bedroom was when I lived in a very low-income district, and I had just heard the same voice issue death threats to the kids who were sheltering under our house’s overhang. I played possum both times.

This time around – and this is the most credible version of the story I’ve heard so far – an individual was seen running into the complex and the security guard called the police. The most incredible part – though I know it’s true – is that they actually came! They must have spent hours scouring every floor and stairwell, because I later heard that the police were still there when my housekeeper arrived at 7:30 am. They don’t seem to have found the intruder, and the janitor tells me no one was burglarised. The mystery deepens.

It is a bit strange after 17 years in a much larger complex with – presumably – much better security. Living in a country with such huge income disparities, where even people renting a flat in a run-down building in an up-and-coming neighbourhood would seem rich compared to those living in shacks in hardscrabble slums, invasions of apartment complexes are bound to happen. It’s not the first time we’ve experienced it – the last time was nearly 20 years ago. Two apartments in our building in Rio Vermelho were burglarised on All Souls’ Day, when many people in Bahia head for the cemeteries to remember their dead (we were home at the time, which may explain why we were spared).

Perhaps the main doors of this complex in Cabula will be locked from now on – or until we let our guard down once again.

 

 

 

 

Dique do Tororó – Salvador’s fowl-free Serpentine

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 Postcard of the Dique do Toróro at the turn of the century

Link to photos of the Dique when there were geese (scroll down)

I love to drive by the Dique do Tororó – an artificial lagoon encrusted in the heart of Salvador, Bahia. If you look at the water and its landscaped surroundings, you will almost feel that you have found London’s Hyde Park in the tropics – at least, the Serpentine. But if you look in the other direction, you will see jumbled heaps of motley brick dwellings sprouting almost organically from the hillsides. And this is where the European concept of a manicured urban oasis cum sculpture garden misses out on the most important factor – in my mind – the swans, ducks and geese that are the main adornment of any London park, or English river, for that matter. Attempts have been made to introduce different kinds of wildfowl into the Tororó landscape, but they have all met with foul play. In other words, they ended up on someone’s dinner table. Until the problems of poverty and the attendant hunger pangs are solved in the surrounding neighbourhoods, the wings of wild geese will never shimmer over the waters of Tororó.

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Aerial view of Dique do Tororó – taken before the construction of the present-day Fonte Nova Arena