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Brazzil - Brazil/USA - September 2003
 

Newark Celebrates Brazil

This past weekend was Newark's turn to celebrate Brazil's Independence
Day. The Newark celebration though smaller in publicity and stars
than the one a week before in New York, was grander and livelier. The
public could be close to the stages and very little security was necessary,
for the crowd partied hard but in a mostly orderly manner.

Ernest Barteldes

 

A week after Manhattan celebrated Brazil's Independence Day with a lavish, star-studded show, it was Newark's Brazilian community's turn to do the same. On September 6 and 7, the 181st anniversary of the day that their country broke free from Portugal was commemorated among a hard-partying crowd that was entertained by several bands—some of them flown in especially for the event.

In Newark, however, the celebration, though smaller in publicity and stars, was grander and livelier, since New Jersey has fewer regulations than The Big Apple. For one, beer and caipirinha (Brazil's national cocktail) were freely consumed within the fair's limits. Also, when I walked into a nearby bar, I was surprised by how smoke-filled the air was, as The Garden State has not (unlike New York) imposed smoking restrictions to its bar patrons.

According to 2002 Miss Brazil NY, Nayara Pellegrini, Newark's party had more of a Brazilian "feel" to it (her exact words: "jeitinho brasileiro," a reference to Brazil's unique "way" of doing things). "Over here we feel a bigger presence of the Brazilian community, the Bahia-born Pellegrini said, "while in Manhattan there were many people from other countries." She also stated that, in comparison to New York, there was a lot more freedom around. "All that crowd control was a bit disturbing", she said, referring to the NYPD's "pens" that limit the amount of people from block to block.

In Newark there was none of that. The public could be close to the stages and very little security was necessary, for the crowd partied hard but in a mostly orderly manner. According to a Newark Police officer I spoke to on Sunday evening, there were no reports of serious incidents during the party.

As with any street festival, there were some minor things. For one, food and beverage was a bit overpriced (a bottle of beer went for an average of $ 5.00 in the stands, while for $ 3.00 I could rather comfortably sip Sagres beer at a local Portuguese bar). Acarajés (a typical dish from Bahia made from fried mashed beans, shrimp and several spices) were being sold for $ 5.00, and one had to fork over as much as $ 8.00 for a small plate with roast chicken, rice and beans.

But bargains could be found if one tried hard enough. On one stand, three small tapas and a soft drink went for $ 2.50, while at another I was able to purchase light beer on tap for as little as $ 2.00. Although most stands sold chicken or sausage kebobs for as much as $ 5.00 each, many others offered the same thing for a much more reasonable $ 3.00

Also, the supply of portable toilets was insufficient, and by Sunday afternoon several of them were overflowing, causing a less than pleasant odor wherever they had been placed.

Finally, I thought a bit odd that some vendors were offering products that had little to do with Brazil. For instance, a Hispanic couple hawked bootleg CDs, but all of them were of Spanish-language performers. When I inquired them about Brazilian artists, all they could offer me was the Latin edition of Alexandre Pires' Grammy-nominated album.

Day one of the festival was marked by a bit of frustration for me as I had a hard time obtaining the proper press credentials to properly cover the event. Cacá Santos, one of the event's promoters, had the press list but was nowhere to be found, forcing yours truly to walk around the fair for hours on end. Finally, at around 5 PM (about three hours after my arrival), I finally located him and got hold of what I needed, but then I was so exhausted that I wound making an early return to New York via the PATH train.

Rested and refreshed, I returned to Newark the next day to find an even larger crowd than on Saturday. On the Adam Street stage, Fortaleza-born Paulo Taíba and his band performed Bahia-inspired renditions of several classics of Brazilian popular music.

Taíba, who I met years ago in Brazil, is now a resident of New Jersey and a regular performer there. He recognized me as I approached the stage for a photo, and he sent me a greeting on the microphone.

At around 3:00 PM, the civic parade began, opened by Brazilian representatives of the local Salvation Army, led by longtime immigrant and Protestant Minister Captain Renato Righi,

Later in the evening, the crowd went wild as Bahia's Patrulha do Samba, one of the festival's main musical attractions (the other one was Rio de Janeiro's Tchakabum, which had made an earlier performance ), took the stage with Ericson, their charismatic vocalist, and Gal, the band's scantily-clad dancer. Both sent the crowd their charms, and the public responded by singing along to every song they performed.

"This year's festival was one of the best ever", said Cacá Santos. "we had the support of everyone in the Brazilian, Portuguese and Hispanic communities, proving that our force resides within our unity."

"We hope to count on everyone's presence next year for an even better party", Santos excitedly told me at the end of our interview.

As I took the train back home later that evening, the party was still jumping as the crowd danced to the music of yet another band.

 

Ernest Barteldes is an ESL and Portuguese teacher. In addition to that, he is a freelance writer who has regularly been contributing The Greenwich Village Gazette since September 1999. His work has also been published by Brazzil, The Staten Island Advance, The Staten Island Register, The SI Muse, The Villager, GLSSite and other publications. He lives in Staten Island, NY. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com

 









 
 
 







 



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