Barro do Turvo
This past week, we went on a rural visit to Barro do Turvo, a town of about 8,000 inhabitants, including a an Agroforestry Coop and a Quilombo (explain). It was about a five-hour bus drive Sao Paulo, and the scenery of the countryside we drove through was gorgeous. We started out with two nights at the Agroflorestal, an Agroforestry Co-op where, in order to actually get there, we had to take a small wooden boat connected to a pulley across the river that may or may not have had alligators in it. We went across, eight at a time, while our luggage was in a basket being zip-lines across above us. There was also a zip-line for people to get across, but for liability issues, we weren’t allowed to use them. After everyone got across, we walked up a small path before being so kindly greeted with fresh mango juice and an abundance of bananas. We slept in rooms lined with bunk beds, were woken up at 5 am daily by the rooster, got bitten by far too many mosquitos, and had the privilege of being surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. On the first day, Pedro, the owner of the Co-op, took us on a small hike to one of the hills. Barro do Turvo is known as being one of the poorest areas in the state, but Pedro said, “How can you be poor when you have a view like this?” It was such an interesting concept to think that the labeling of society was what was making them all think they were poor, but in reality, they had everything they needed and more.
All of the food we ate was as fresh as could be. Not only was there a table constantly full of bananas, oranges, pineapple, and guava, but we also got fresh goat milk to eat with our cereal and coffee each morning. It’s odd I should mention coffee, because I’ve never been a coffee drinker. However, the coffee here is so sweet, that I actually enjoyed having a cup or two in the morning! Several of the workers there were also yoga instructors, so I was overjoyed when I was also able to start out my day with some yoga.
Also while at the Agroflorestal we hiked to w nearby waterfall and got to spend a few hours bathing in the fresh water and enjoying the beauty. The day was topped off with one of my favorite activities, Capoeira. Capoeira is a form of dance and martial art that was created by the slaves in Brazil as a way to prepare them to fight while hiding the fact that they were learning to defend themselves from their owners. If you look it up on YouTube, I’m sure you’ll find some pretty cool videos. So a Capoeira group from the region came by to teach about the history of Capoeira, show us the instruments used for the music, and teach us some basic moves. They then demonstrated the practice for us, and invited us to join in. It was amazing to me how graceful they made it look, and how easily two people were able to move the way they did without touching each other or interfering. They stayed until dark, and the next day we headed out for the actual town where we remained for the next few days. But before arriving, we spent the afternoon at the local Quilombo, which is a free settlement founded by people of African origin, usually escaped slaves. Since Brazil was the last country to eradicate slavery, there are numerous Quilombos in the country. They made us a delicious lunch of all home grown foods, and so kindly showed us around their land and the banana plantation they had. We learned the history of their Quilombo, got to plant a heart of palm tree, played soccer with a few of the kids, got to meet the “medicine man” of the Quilombo, and had a wonderful time in their beautiful area.
Our last few days in Barro do Turvo consisted of site visits to the hospital, orphanage, and elderly home, class time, meeting with the Mayor of the city and the health board, and enjoying Valentine’s Day with this adorable little community. It was a town of about 3,000 inhabitants and had the most gorgeous view of the mountains. It was a wonderful little escape week from the crowded streets of Sao Paulo.