My trip to Brazil starts a few days before the plane departs from California. In its online edition the Buenos Aires daily Clarín (2/14/2002) carried an article on Benedita da Silva, Brazil's first black woman Senator who has just become Governor of Rio. I remember her visit to campus a couple of years ago when she gave a moving speech about having grown up in one of Rio's favelas, "desde la favela inició una larga marcha hacia un cargo desde donde poner a negros y pobres en un plano de igualdad y dignidad con el resto de los brasileños," the Argentine daily went on to say about this extraordinary woman.
Thursday April 18th
There's a reassuring feeling when I come out of Customs and I find a man holding a sign with my name. A friend has sent a driver to pick me up. It's been a disorienting 9 hours from the other side of the Equator, so I forget the few Portuguese phrases I have learned and I end up saying in Spanish "mucho gusto."
It's already 10 a.m. but traffic is still heavy. Welcome to life in a big city. The driver asks where I am from and I say California but I must not fit the image that he has of some one from the United States and gives me an inquisitive look. I say my parents were from Mexico and soon we seem to have become pals when we start talking about soccer. Brazilians still remember the 1970 victory game in Guadalajara that earned them a spot in the final, when they won their 3rd World Cup. Although I know very little about soccer, I too remember that year when we gathered around the only television set in our town in Northern Mexico to watch some of the games. Ever since, I only follow soccer every 4 years. The driver does not seem very hopeful for this year's team.
We arrive at the hotel and I find a fax from SALALM librero Susan Bach Ltd. People know I am in town. My room overlooks a park and Praia do Flamengo. Later on I will find out that the park is part of what used to be the Presidential Palace when Rio was still Brazil's capital and where President Getulio Vargas committed suicide in 1954. It now houses the Museu da República.
I decide to try the beach for a while. It's probably 85 degrees and it's only 11am! The 20 minutes in the sun I have barely endured are enough to fatigue me and I return to my room after I pick up a daily. At the newsstand I ask, in Spanish, if they carry the cultural monthly Cult. The vendor does not understand so I say it's a "revista cultural" but she does not recognize it. I look around and notice TPM (trip-para mulher) and inquire as to whether or not it's a women's magazine. She interprets my question to mean I want a magazine with only women and reaches over to the section with Playboy-like publications. I say, "no, muito obrigado" and walk away with the Jornal do Brasil, one of the country's oldest dailies which has seen its ups and downs.
After the visit to CESPI, I go to the American Consulate to meet with LC-Rio Office's Pamela Howard-Reguindin. We have been invited by Elda Mulholland to visit the Main Library at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica. Elda is Director of the Library and will be one of ENLACE's invitees for SALALM 2002.
Back at the downtown area, on the way back to the hotel, I make a quick stop at the Ministry of Culture's FUNARTE bookstore. I find a collection of videos from a series on Silent Films from Latin America (Tesouros do Cinema Latino-Americano) completed in late 1998; the only thing for which there is a listing. The site (www.lojafunarte.com.br) has a few items listed but certainly not everything I see in the store. It's almost 4:30 and I've been warned about Friday afternoon traffic, so I decide to return to my hotel.
After a brief rest, I go out to wander in the direction of the bright lights coming from the park right across from the hotel. It houses the Museu da República and it's open this evening with something for all tastes. The progressive minds can opt for a show on native dances from the interior of Brazil and from places as far away as Japan. The hard-core lefties can visit the exhibit on Che Guevara.
After wandering inside the compound, the applause from one of the corners catches my attention and I find a group of 40-50 aposentados (retirees) listening to a guitar quartet. But this is not a Julliard-like ensemble, it's made of aposentados. And the songs come from those in the group who take their turn singing. The first volunteer gives the name of her song, which is recognized by all and is greeted with their applause. The crowd either hums or sings along, even at the moment when the elder lady clamors out, "que mais queres de mim, que mais queres de mim," gesturing with her hands. Another song follows, "amor no es posible terminar asi " I notice the woman next to me reading from a piece of paper, she is rehearsing her lines. I ask her if she will sing and indeed she will follow the one who is just ending with the words "é uma loucura, mas sempre acabo nos seus braços à hora que você quer " What follows is a Mexican bolero, "Quizas, quizas, quizas," and the crowd of mostly women has been waiting for this one. When the singer skips a line, she is given the words by half the crowd. Once she has finished her song, "gostou?" she asks me. I say "yes" in Spanish. "Es una canción mexicana muy famosa," I add.
I have been enjoying this night of nostalgia for more than an hour. I am about to leave when a tall blond woman gets up. Even now, she has a presence that in her youth must have been one of imposing beauty. "Voy a cantar un bolero" she says, I think it's Spanish because I don't detect an accent. " Flores negras " she adds. Her voice could have been that of Mexico's Toña la Negra or Cuba's Olga Guillot, " me hacen daño tus labios .me hacen daño tus ojos ..flores negras del destino nos apartan sin piedad " I leave with the feeling of having experienced a side of Rio very different from Copacabana or Ipanema.
My friend and I will be visiting the southern part of Rio, the most recently developed section of the City. Some parts look like a carbon copy of an American suburb. One of the shopping areas, New York Center, even has a Statue of Liberty in front of it. We have come to visit the FNAC store, part of the French chain. It is just like the one I visited in Madrid, which I remember carried a surprisingly good selection of recent books and the staff was very customer friendly.
One of the first sections we encounter is the magazine area, where I find several Brazilian titles. I choose the latest issues of Veredas (issn 1413 7941), the monthly publication of the Banco do Brasil, as well as the most recent issue of Cult: Revista de Literatura Brasileira (issn 1414 7076). It has just changed owners and now appears to have a web site (www.revistacult.com.br). But the section that has been recommended is that of movies. I am not disappointed because I find eight Brazilian films in DVD that probably have not made it to the United States (Domésticas, La Serva Padrona, O Primeiro Dia, Caramaru: A Invençao do Brasil, Bicho de Sete Cabeças, O Dia da Caça, Tudo Bem, Guerra de Canudos and Villa-Lobos: Uma Vida de Paixão). I also get a copy of the recent (two-volume) Enciclopedia da Literatura Brasileira, reviewed in the SALALM Newsletter (February, 2002).
The plan to visit a museum after lunch is abandoned when we realize we
are running late and I have to meet a friend back at the hotel.
We drive in the direction of downtown. My friend shows me around the Centro Histórico, pointing to the Paço Imperial, which he notes, is modest for a royal palace in comparison with the Cathedral. After a visit to the Teatro Municipal, we end up at the former Banco do Brasil building, which now houses a Cultural Center. He heads the literature department at a local state university and still remembers with much fondness his excursions here as a high school student.
It's Friday night and I am a bit tired to go out, so I force myself to visit the Museu da República again but the aposentado musical ensemble is not here this evening. Instead, I spend time at the bookstore where I browse the small section on Afro-Brazilian publications.Right below, I find several issues of Folhetin: Teatro do Pequeno Gesto (issn 1415 370x), which does not appear in OCLC.
Sunday April 21st
We arrive back in Rio just in time to attend a reception in honor of Ann Hartness, recently appointed to lead the Benson Latin American Collection. She has just arrived earlier in the day but appears to be energized as she embarks on a 5-week trip throughout Brazil, a place quite familiar to her, having spent several years here.
Before dinner, I converse with a sociologist from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, he comments on how little (beyond Samba and Pelé) Mexico and Brazil know about each other. This same sentiment is shared by SALALM librero Humberto Borges (of Susan Bach Ltd.) who has spent more than 30 years in Rio away from his native Mexico. A few days later in São Paulo, Mexico's Cultural Attache in Brazil will note that knowledge of Brazil in Mexico ends with the 1970 World Cup. A researcher at USP will also add that when Brazilians travel abroad, they go to Europe or the United States, very seldom to other parts of Latin America. Although at a given time, he adds, those who could not afford Europe could always go to Buenos Aires, when it felt like being in Europe.
This gap may have been bridged a bit by Brazil's presence at the 2001 Guadalajara Book Fair as the featured country. It may be no coincidence that UNAM has reissued the 1996 Nueva antología del cuento brasileño contemporaneo. In a brief note, Mexico City's daily El Universal (1/27/2002) noted, "el lector seguramente no quedará decepcionado: el universo de Brasil no se limita al sertão al que nos tenían acostumbrados "
On a related note, Alforja, a Mexican poetry journal, has also devoted its latest issue (#19) to contemporary Brazilian poetry, "con el propósito de abrir más espacios para el diálogo entre Brasil y México," according to a note in Mexico City's daily El Universal (5/4/2002).
Monday April 22nd
We are given a tour of the Reading Room, the Rare Book Area, where they have prepared a small sample of their treasures (something that will also be repeated at the Manuscripts Room). They are very proud of their Conservation and Preservation Labs, of which we take a detailed tour, always looking at the clock since we are running late and SALALM librero Humberto Borges is already waiting at the Consulate. Before leaving, I ask Pamela to take a picture by the current exhibit on the City of Rio. The guard reminds us politely that no pictures are allowed, but we have already taken one for our SALALM Newsletter.
I apologize to Humberto for our dilatoriness as we walk in the direction of the Centro Histórico, ending up at the former Paço Imperial -now home to a cultural center which includes a music store and a restaurant. After enjoying a most tasty meal, we visit a sebo, a used bookstore, before taking a taxi to visit Susan Bach Ltd. offices.
It's my last evening in Rio and I want to visit the Nossa Senhora da Glória Church (dating back to the early 1700s), which is not too far from my hotel. It's clearly visible up on a hill and appears in several paintings of the City. I ask one of the hotel clerks how to get there, but it's already dark and he says, "lamentavelmente não é recomendavel ir lá a esta hora." So I just walk all they way to the Statue of St. Sebastian, patron of Rio. I'll just have to wait for my next trip to climb the steps of this favorite church of Emperor Don Pedro II, so much so that he was married here and had his daughter Princesa Isabel baptized as well.
I have been to this City before and I was reminded by a taxista paulista that this was the heart of Brazil. It is indeed the country's largest city and its financial center. Nonetheless, it seems to compete with Rio to the north, the soul of Brazil, according to a taxista carioca.
Among bibliophiles it's been called gentle madness. In me, it's just an obsession for books, so I find my way to a bookstore I remember from the previous visit. Frida Garbatti from the LC-Rio Office has suggested Livraria Cultura as certainly the best in the City. The one downtown is divided into several separate buildings: one for Art, another one for Law, and one for General Literature and History. I go to the latter to get a panoramic view of Brazilian publishing. I spend most of my time by the literary/cultural journals section. I find the premier issue (March 2001) of the Porto Alegre serial Cadernos Themis: Género e Dereito, this number is on sexual crimes. Another interesting find is Imaginário (issn 1413-666x) a joint publication from several USP research centers, with each of the issues devoted to a theme (#6, percepção/bricolage; #5, diferença, etc.)
I then move over to the small audiolivro shelf where I find not only tapes of several authors reading their own books, but also the series Memória Musical Brasileira in CD format, only one, 1900 a virada do século, is in OCLC (#48205653). The other 3 titles (Viajem pelo Brasil, Marélia de Dirceu, and Teatro do Descobrimento) do not appear in either RLIN or OCLC.
During a tour of the Humanities Library, I notice in one the Acquisition carts the second (recent) edition of a work I took home 3 years ago: Direitos Humanos no Cotidiano: Manul. In OCLC, only LC and Stanford hold the first edition (# 46319397). Although my friend is a professor, he is quite knowledgeable about libraries and had proposed to USP administrators a plan to set up a Library for Government Publications. He and the Humanities Head Librarian even traveled to the United States to visit several academic libraries, but his plan was not approved and he is most disappointed.
It's now almost 1:30p.m. and we are going to lunch at one of the Shopping Centers. The restaurant offers a very good selection of self-serve salads and entreés. Our conversation turns to the economic crisis in Argentina. It seems that Brazil is not being impacted as might have been expected. However, if the financial troubles continue the future of the Mercosul economic alliance could be in jeopardy.
Following lunch, we make a quick stop at the other Livraria Cultura, which happens to be a few feet away from the restaurant. I head over to the video section to see if I can find the ones that Frida (from LC-Rio Office) printed from the Modern Sound and Blockbuster web sites, both at Copacabana in Rio and which I was not able to visit. It's my lucky day, they have 6 of them (Anahy de las Misiones, Brava Gente Brasileira, Gêmeas, Bufo & Spallanzani, Eu te Amo, and Caramuru: A Invenação do Brasil).
My plans to visit the Bienal de Arte will have to wait until 2004. It's almost 4p.m. and my energy level is running low. Trying to find my way back to the hotel from the Museu de Arte Contemporânea is the last thing on my mind right now. I have an assured ride back, an offer I am not turning it down.
Back in the hotel I am tempted to go to a movie. I have checked the cinema section in Rio's Jornal do Brasil. Of 42 films listed, only 2 are Brazilian: Dias de Nietchze em Turim, 2001 (***) and Latitude Zero 2000 (**). It is interesting to see the rating given to a film from the United States like In the Bedroom (*), recently nominated for an Oscar. The rest are either American or European films. But I would miss much of the dialogue, one more regret for not speaking Portuguese.
My taxista will not only prove to be a filósofo, he is also an evangelico. "Yo soy de la Galicia," he tells me in Spanish when he finds out I was born in Mexico. He's been living in São Paulo since the early 1950s and now, at 82, he is aposentado and receives a pension from Spain; "allí sí que están muy avanzados," he tells me as we venture into the traffic.
We've been on the road for more than an hour and the traffic does not move. I get the feeling that we have missed the exit and soon we'll be arriving in Montevideo. It does not help that the temperature reads 31 degrees. But my camarada taxista, has quite a few stories to tell, he speaks incessantly. At times showing his good Samaritan side when we are approached at a stoplight by a woman, with a baby in her arms and extending her hand, clearly begging for something. He reaches from underneath the passenger seat and gives her a bag of cookies. "Los ricos deberían hacer más por los pobres," he says, "asi habría menos violencia," he notes.
In the midst of the traffic jam, he asks if I know of a Mexican movie star, I must be too young to remember her, he says, her name is Maria Felix. He is surprised when I tell him I do know who she is, but he is almost shocked when I tell that she died only a week ago. I get the sense that if the traffic were not at a standstill, he would have hit the brakes. "¿Cómo?," he asks incredulously. I think the death of his film diva reminds of him of his own mortality, she was only a few years older than he. But we are arriving to the fairgrounds. He gives me an image of the aparecida from the North. He may be an evangelico but he is going against the advice of his pastor by believing in the Virgin and the Saints, several of which he displays in his car. I can't hide the excitement at finally having arrived.
In the next 3 weeks there will be some 1700 lançamentos of new books which are prominently displayed at most of the stands. The largest publishers hold the most sought after location. The first one I look for is the Portuguese stand. Once I locate it, I find the serial Camões (issn 0874-3029) which seems to have a partial full text online. I remember wanting to buy the initial 3 issues at the Rio Biennial in 1999 but they were only on display. The pavilhão houses 16 commercial publishers and 3 research centers.
At the Casa da Palavra stand I notice the 4 volume set Guias da Arquitectura no Rio (2002) and not too far from there another stand has the 3rd edition (2000) of the Enciclopédia da Música Brasileira (OCLC 47771771), which interestingly enough lacks illustrations. Following along the music lines, I come to a stand carrying the series 70 Anos de Música. This is after all Brazil and music is an essential element of its culture.
Before reaching the combined academic press stand, I go through the Travessa Literária. It is an aisle (half the size of the rest in the fair), which includes some of the independent publishers. It is here that I am approached by someone from the magazine Caros Amigos, which I had seen at the newsstands. Already in its 5th year, it has reached a circulation of 55,000 and has earned several prizes, like the Medalha Chico Mendes de Resistência and the Prêmio da Associação Paulista de Críticos de Arte. It will also include 12 bimonthly issues (32pp) on Rebeldes Brasileiros: Homens e Mulheres que Desafiaram o Poder.
I have been looking for this combined academic press stand. It will be largest stand, combining 60 publishers and launching 226 titles. It includes a small amphitheater (Arena Libre), which will host several cultural events. This confirms what my academic friend in Rio has told me: in the last few years the publishing output of the university presses has increased tremendously. Certainly in a country larger than "USA's lower 48" it may be a most challenging enterprise to ensure that these titles are covered via commercial distributors.
The largest stand is that of the University of Sao Paulo. Items to look for here are serial publications and since a picture is worth a 1000 words, seeing first hand several sample issues can help in deciding whether or not to subscribe. Titles like Sinopse: revista de cinema (OCLC 46365451) have few holding locations; while Iararana: revista de arte, crítica e literatura only has 4 East Coast holding libraries in RLIN. Then there is Artigo definido: a revista da editoração (42 pp.) from USP's Communication School. One of the lengthy articles examines Brazilian women magazines and of those featured is TPM, the one I saw at the newsstand in Rio and already celebrating its first year.
There' also Quadreca, a comic-like serial. According to the young man at the stand, it has been published erratically but has included the work of alternative writers who have now gone mainstream. Lastly, I pick up a handsomely illustrated publication from Pernambuco: Continente Multicultural (issn 1518-5095). Already in its second year, the latest (April 2002) issue carries a lengthy interview with Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station, 2000) about his recent film Abril Despedaçado, which has just been released in the United States as Behind the Sun.
By now I have covered all the stands (O Estado de São Paulo says is 3.3 km while Madrid's El País will say the following day that it was 5km), with the heat it feels like the latter. Before I start going back for a more detailed visit to some of them, I run into SALALM librero Marcelo García Cambeiro who tells me he has just returned from the Northeastern region and has purchased hundreds of titles as he sets up a Brazilian book distributing business in São Paulo.
Later on I will find Vera de Araujo and Humberto from Susan Bach. Humberto will share a most humorous anecdote: when he got to the cashier, the clerk said that if the two women accompanying him were older than 65, they could get in for free. He does not dare to ask Vera, and diplomatically replies, "I think between the two of them, they probably add to 65." So they each have to pay $5 reales when they could have entered for free. Howard Karno will surprise me at the USP stand and Sonia T.G. Silvia will also attend the following day, but I will miss her.
It has been a most exhausting day. I said I would pick up very few things and now I have to 2 bags full of flyers and catalogs. I am lucky that Howard and Beverly Karno have generously offered a ride back to the City. Traffic will again be heavy but this time a libreiro paulista is at the wheel and he will find a shortcut, still facing what now seems like an eternal traffic jam.
Back at the hotel, I spend the rest of the evening arranging and re-arranging my suitcase until I am sure I can fit all catalogs and dailies I have picked up. By the time Vera and Humberto call with an invitation for a late dinner, I am about to go to bed since the following day I still have one more activity before departing for Rio and back to the other side of the Equator. I will also cheat on my Portuguese and turn the channel to CNN en Español to catch the news.
Friday April 26th
I must have given the taxi driver the wrong address because we drive around for a while, and then I finally get out and start walking (in the opposite direction I will soon find out). I reach a small bookstore and I ask in Spanish how can I get to their hotel. The sales clerk does not know. Since he has a phone in his hand I offer to pay so that I can call the Karnos and let them know I am lost. I must have given a panicked and disoriented image that the store clerk asks me to calm down. He lets me use his phone and on the way out, gives me a card with the image of Santo Expedito. I will not find out until the following morning in Miami that he is the patron saint of "aflitos desesperados...das causas urgentes " At the end of the prayer there is a disclaimer, "para que os pedidos sejam atendidos é necessário que sejam justos." Mine is probably a just cause, as I cross the street I find a young man in a taxi, waiting for me? I give him the address and say I am lost, running late and exhausted. He, too, gives me a calming glance and says we'll be there soon. Once he finds out I am leaving later that day, he offers to take me to the International Airport for less than what it would have cost at the hotel. It's been a long time since I have believed in guardian angels, but this morning I have found one. His name is Kleber and he will pick me up later that afternoon.
When we arrive at the Correa do Lago bookstore we are met by Felipe Ehrenberg and his wife Lourdes Hernadez Fuentes who is not only a journalist but also an expert cook whose plates could come out of Like Water for Chocolate, hence the "cocinera atrevida" words in her business card. El Salvadorian writer Horacio Castellanos Molla (former editor of the Mexican weekly and daily Milenio) is also there. Shortly thereafter, Pedro Correa do Lago arrives and leads us to the upstairs section which houses an impressive collection of rare Braziliana, delighting us with interesting anecdotes of how he started collecting, eventually becoming a libreiro and editor as well as a publisher.
At the end of our visit, we will have lunch with Felipe, Lourdes and Horacio. I will leave just as Ehrenberg is showing us some of his latest work. He has started painting again, he says. He also adds that in learning Portuguese, he has (re)discovered old Spanish which has infused new energy in his writing.
Once at the airport, I unfold copies of Rio and São Paulo dailies only to find Benedita da Silva in the front page. She will be moving into the Governor's residence and both newspapers note the Cinderella-like aspect of it all. The woman who grew up in the favelas is now residing in a Palace, reminding all that she worked cleaning houses and knows how to take care of all the antique furniture in the Governor's Residence. Only one thing will have to change, Benedita is a very tall woman and she will need a bigger bed.