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Cabral, his coast and the discovery that already existed

Essays. 29-Nov-2009 .Traveler Oliveira

Reflection on the beginning of the history of Brazil and its conquest

The state of Bahia whose shape on the map replicates in miniature almost exactly the shape of the map of Brazil, not only provides much of what we know as Brazilian culture, but is also an essential part of the country's historical origin. Its coastline is subdivided into several regions, the beaches north of Salvador are the " linha Verde ", south of Salvador until Itacaré is the Costa do Dende <, and between Belmonte and Caraíva is the most famous Bahia sub-region: the Costa do Descubrimento , whose epicenter is the city of Porto Seguro, and whose name refers to the initial gene of Brazil, more than 500 years ago.

Pintura de Victor Meirelles: Primera Misa en Brasil
Pintura de Victor Meirelles: Primera Misa en Brasil
foto de Dominio Público

Almost all those who have traveled or read about Porto Seguro know by heart the history of the conquistador Cabral and the reason for the name Coast of Discovery. For those who still do not know this story, there is a short summary of the discovering mythology:

Cruz e indios Pataxós - sur de Bahía
Cruz e indios Pataxós - sur de Bahía
foto de brasilplayas.com - CC by-nc-nd

It was the year 1500, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, Portuguese navigator on a mission trip to India surrounding South Africa mysteriously lost to the southwest(almost like Christopher Columbus) and in desperate search of land sighted the peak of Mount Pascoal, However, when approaching the coast more or less at the current Caraíva, he and his crew realized that the constant barriers of reefs parallel to the coast of this area made it impossible for them to disembark safely. he made them continue their journey further south and discover at the mouth of the river Buranhem a miraculous natural breakwater formed by a barrier of reefs that together with the river formed, and continues to form today, a natural harbor perfect, a safe port to disembark, discover, start colonization, and become the founding myth of what would later be one of the largest countries in the world.

Niña pataxó vendiendo collares en la playa
Niña pataxó vendiendo collares en la playa
foto de brasilplayas.com - CC by-nc-nd

Obviously this is the Eurocentric version of the story, because we all know that Porto Seguro, Brazil and all of South America were already discovered and inhabited for some time. But it is at this point that the particular history of the conquest of Brazil differs from other similar stories. What in any other place in Latin America today is simply oppressed and oppressed, conquered and conquered, in Brazil it becomes something more complex.

Niñas pataxós vendiendo collares en la playa
Niñas pataxós vendiendo collares en la playa
foto de brasilplayas.com - CC by-nc-nd

To begin with, although Brazil(and especially Bahia) had and still has incidents of racism like anywhere else in the world, there are few examples of countries that assume their cultural diversity and multi-ethnic origin the way they are assumed in Brazil . A good part of Brazilians know that they are the product of the diverse origins and histories(many horrendous ones) that gave rise to what Brazil is today. A good part of its population knows that it has mixed in its blood the oppressor and the oppressed, the enslaver and the slave.

Azulejo con la imagen de Cabral
Azulejo con la imagen de Cabral
Foto de joseolgon - CC by-sa

In the city of Porto Seguro this is very clearly appreciated. Upon arrival one will read the posters proclaiming that "Here was born Brazil", but this proclamation is illustrated with the figure of an Indian: the phrase proposes that Brazil was born on the same day that the Europeans arrived but the same poster includes the Indian Through his image in the epic, he suggests that Brazil is not only what the Portuguese brought to this land, it is also what the Indians lost and what was left of the fusion of both.

In spite of being probably the coast of discovery, the place of Brazil where the Indians have more rights and are more vindicated, the social reality of the indigenous communities of the region is not very different from that of other communities of native peoples of South America. Brazil was historically, and still is after more than 6 years of the Lula government, a country controlled by the elites , and skin color is often an invaluable advantage when it comes to social positioning.

The Indians of today are protected by laws as part of an original Brazilian nature that must be preserved as corals or sea turtles are preserved; nevertheless in the day to day of their lives, many of the descendants of those who received the ships of Alvarez Cabral, today survive on alms and sell their exotic image to the cameras of tourists. Others, already surrendered to a naive capitalism, trade with their part in the history of Brazil: while they walk the beaches under the insolent Bahian sun of midday, they mix in the eyes of the tourist their varied merchandise for sale; colorful necklaces, bows, arrows and also souvenirs of the conquest: wooden caravels that replicate the Portuguese of more than 500 years ago, memories that magnify and further claim the founding and discoverer myth of Cabral.

La memoria de Cabral, al contrario de lo que ocurre con otros protagonistas de la conquista americana, sobrevive casi inmaculada. Y es que Brasil, más allá de los horrores; primero de la conquista y luego de la esclavitud; es tan hijo de este colonizador portugués, como es hijo del indígena colonizado, es hijo del esclavo africano traído a la fuerza y de quienes los esclavizaron, y también es hijo de muchos otros inmigrantes llegados por propia voluntad desde todos los rincones del mundo durante los últimos dos siglos.

Brasil asume su diversidad y absuelve su pasado, quizás por eso en el bello y terrible poema Navio Negreiro, el poeta bahiano Castro Alves evita nombrarlo a Cabral y le transfiere los horrores de la opresión conquistadora a un navegante más ajeno a lo brasileño; cuando al final de su obra cumbre le implora en 1869 a un Cristóbal Colón muerto hace siglos: que ya está bien de tanto horror llegado de ultramar, que ya es hora de cerrar de una vez por todas la puerta de sus mares.

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Pintura de Victor Meirelles: Primera Misa en Brasil
Pintura de Victor Meirelles: Primera Misa en Brasil

foto de Dominio Público

Cruz e indios Pataxós - sur de Bahía
Cruz e indios Pataxós - sur de Bahía
Niña pataxó vendiendo collares en la playa
Niña pataxó vendiendo collares en la playa
Niñas pataxós vendiendo collares en la playa
Niñas pataxós vendiendo collares en la playa
Azulejo con la imagen de Cabral
Azulejo con la imagen de Cabral

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