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Invoking the God of war in a favela

…with his gaze fixed on the road increases the speed with which he moves his right foot as we climb that hill of tiny half-built houses. We are entering a favela…

naturaleza

The sound of the telephone reverberates between the four stone walls of the Carmelite convent, now converted into the hotel room where we are staying in Pelourinho, a colonial neighborhood in Salvador de Bahía.

The receptionist’s voice is choppy. ̶ Miss Andalucia, a gentleman is asking for you. I told him to wait outside. Do you want me to tell him to leave? ̶.

̶ Ask him to Wait! ̶ I answer as I take my white bag, matching the clothing required for the celebration, and hang up.

̶ Rubén, our driver is waiting for us ̶ I tell my boyfriend, who is quietly reclining in a 16th century armchair reading a book, while I click my heels on the dark wooden floor in an attempt to drown out the heartbeat of my heart.

Avid for adventure and attracted by mysticism, before embarking on our trip to Brazil I contacted Marcio, a stranger from Brazil, who acted as a mediator to invite us to a “terreiro”. The “terreiros” are the places where the Candomblé ceremonies are held, an Afro-Brazilian religion practiced in hiding for centuries.

Here is our contact, in the dim light of a streetlight, leaning against a small sky-blue car whose door howls when it is opened. Inside, a couple of Italian tourists await. Seeing them, my palpitations ease. I no longer cared so much if the place we are heading to, the address of which we don’t even know, is not so authentic.

Rubén, who is there more to please me than for pleasure, with his gaze fixed on the road increases the speed with which he moves his right foot as we climb that hill of tiny half-built houses. We are entering a favela.

̶ We have arrived, that’s it ̶ says Marcio in “Portoñol”, pointing to a dirty white house without windows, wedged like a Tetris tile on top of a pale pink one and under a brick one with clothes hanging ̶. In an hour I’ll pick you up, this boy will take you inside ̶ and leave.

We go up the concrete stairs avoiding the gaps and stop in front of a door in which we can glimpse an open space of about 20 square meters. Inside, a crowd dressed in white. We follow the boy and, between shoves, we occupy the first row.

Suddenly, to the rhythm of the drums, with a frown, his skin the color of jasper and a musculature possibly inherited from his slave ancestors, appears Oggun, Orisha of war; dressed in purple waistcoat and trousers, he energetically throws his machete in descending oblique movements, as if making his way through the thick jungle. A lady bursts in front of him, her eyes rolling and spasming in perfect tune with the replay of the drums. And this is followed by another, lying on the ground convulsing. Rubén addresses me with a look that reminds me of my father’s when I did something that was not tolerated as a child ̶ Don’t even think about going into a trance ̶ The five years of dating gives him the ability to anticipate my reactions sometimes.With small streams running through his entire body, Rubén decides to change the characteristic smell of the clothes after an intense session in the gym, for that of his cigarette smoke; the psychic for the mundane; the clothing for the helplessness. I stay a while longer inside, as part of the whole, seduced, relieved, light … Without Rubén, there is no one left to question me.When I leave, I find him in a group of smokers. He has the pack of Malboro that he had started in the morning crumpled in his hand. We just looked at each other. Let’s go? ̶ I ask him ̶. Yes ̶ he answers. And like incense smoke, we disappear.

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With the best of my smiles,

Carmen.

2021-02-07T19:37:17+00:00

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