Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Whose Hands are clean?

Igreja de Nossa Senhora: Outra Veja

Rushing to piss on a break between recipes: Xinxim and Farofa Amarella, I heard a loud commotion from the street below Senac, when I got to the hallway. I rain into the little chapel to find a window. Outside there were hundreds of electioneers. They were clustered in the street segregated into three groups by flags and colors. Each team was dressed in either Red, White or Blue and huddled around the flag of their color, anxiously waiting on the steps of A Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos. They were not all cheering for the same candidate, Senhor Neto, who was inside the Blue Church taking a special mass. Or, better, he’s working the crowd to secure a portion of the black vote. The candidate’s bloco was warming up. Curiously, the banners above the crowd were for another opposition candidate beaming down on his rival’s team.

Taylor later told me that this was the grandson of one of the oldest, Bosses of Salvador. He had been grooming his son to succeed him, when the son had a freak accident and died. He needed family to complete the dynastic order, securing a financial and power base. He would surely f- over any constituent that he secured this morning. I peered down for a moment and then scurried back to class.

When we finished our class, I jogged downstairs and into the crowd. I had wanted to shoot the drummers. I keyed into them as they banged out their tunes, looking for the best angle in full sun. I turned to hear a ruckus behind me, suddenly at my cheek was Neto. Fairly handsome and barely 30ish, he had the glassy stare and plastic disingenuous smile of a career public persona. I torqued my upper body to to wrangle a closeup, which came up blurred. In a moment the wave had come and gone, Neto and his entourage were cutting a swath up the hill towards the Terreiro de Jesus.

The band played a few more tunes to keep the hangers on rev-ed and then made their way up the hill, Ladeira do Carmo. Like a tide quickly flowing out the energy of the street had come and gone. I learned that in Brazil the candidates cannot campaign until 60 days before the election. Citizens are bound by law to vote. They are legally penalized if they abstain. So those two months are a total blitzkrieg. They are also granted free TV time based upon the percentage of the electorate and fund raising they have gained. So a splinter candidate may get seven minutes per day, while a serious contender thirty. Here and gone.

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