The Most Marvelous of all Cities
My Spanish is so wonderful these days that many Brazilians think I am from Argentina or Spain. Little do they know! Most of the time I wander around this magical city happily washed in particles of uncertainty, making up stories and assigning identities to people as I go: spy, clown, Arabian prince. (Although it doesn't always take a foreign land or a foreign tongue for me to live in my imagination...)
Sometimes stereotypes invade our imaginations; more than once, though, Brasil has undone mine for me. In Brasilia, I was riding the subway to a friend's house. A woman was holding a baby, and a young man offered his seat. He had a rough look about him; at least one person in the world would surely describe him as a "hoodlum." But soon as the mother sat down, he knelt, facing the baby, cooing softly, and gently cradling her soft head.
It is not uncommon in Brasil to be affectionate with other people's children, even if they are strangers. On the bus coming into Rio, a woman went to the bathroom and left her three-year old on the seat. The little girl started to cry when she realized her mother was gone. Without hesitation, three grown men attempted to comfort her. They didn't know her. It was so beautiful that, of course, I teared up. Good thing I love crying. :)
There is something about Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa. It drops magic sprinkles on my head; I think they fall from Jesus's open hands. The other day I was happily lost (again) and asked a man, "Where is Jesus?" He asked, "Right now?"
And I wanted to say, "No, yes, I get it, he is in heaven, but where is THE Jesus?"
It's hard to miss him, though he is not always in the line of sight. Then, every once in a while you turn a corner, and there he is. He takes my breath away every time, so big and mystical, looming over everyone in Rio de Janeiro with his arms wide open. I think if you climbed into his hand, he'd be nice enough to fling you into heaven. Last time I was here, I visited him and brought him a red rose. I love him.
Maybe He is the Magic, or maybe there is more than one avenue funneling into the party. There are marmosets (small monkeys) that visit the tree outside my window in the morning. They are free. They come down from the jungled mountains to explore the city. These are not the curmudgeon urban macaques of India; instead, they are serene and wise and totally not making spectacles of themselves. If I didn't know they were monkeys, I might believe they're hairy garden gnomes. They are that wonderful.
And those jungled mountains from where they descend... The mountains aren't shy, not the way they pierce the sky from the landscape (whether aquatic or terrestrial), endowed with the same biological phenomenon as the proverbial twelve-year old boy called to the chalkboard - except they're not trying to conceal anything. Though their story is geological, I imagine their conversations with one another to be more like this: "Oh, you're going to be all vertical and dramatic like that? Well, check me out." Of course, in reality, they are wiser than that. Like the monkeys.
If I could, I would marry Rio. I have the same enchantment with this city as I have had with certain humans. I know that sounds naive, because Rio has a dark side. Extreme poverty and gross inequality. You wouldn't mistake glitzy Ipanema for Rocinha, the largest favela in the country (and possibly in all of South America, though it contends with a neighborhood in Venezuela). I also imagine that Rio would be a fickle and unfaithful love. So for now, we remain betrothed in my mind.
Seeing as how I am not the only person in the world in love with Rio, the city is EXPENSIVE. No one needs to be convinced of the marvelousness of Rio, least of all Cariocas. So they charge for it. 40 reais for one capoeira class? 35 reais for a 3-tiered bunk bed in a 15-bed room? I'm not joking. I think Jesus also cut holes in my pockets when I'm not looking.
I am content and I marvel - especially when I'm wandering and getting lost. I love using my own brand of Portuguese/Spanish/English. I love being surprised by this city and the people. Come to this city, just once, even if it's only for a week. You can just eat bananas, they are super cheap. And the occasional acai, of course.
Esta é mesmo uma cidade Maravilhosa! com certeza! mas como você disse vale apenas conhecer essa cidade e esse povo que recebe a todos com carinho..adorei ler o seu texto.
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