Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
November 2006: Religious and cultural meetings in
(Click here for the complete overview of ‘A Foreigner in Brazil 2006′)
Usually, November in Belo Horizonte is associated with cloudy days and a lot of rain. Heavy rain showers, almost every day; you really need to carry your umbrella when you go out. November also may have cloudy and rainy weekends; therefore, November is an ideal month for visiting museums. In November 2006, I had visited a number of museums in Belo Horizonte, and I was accompanied by some friends. In my opinion, one of the most interesting museums in Belo Horizonte is Museu Mineiro, which exhibits the rich history of Minas Gerais. From the indian cultures, which existed before the arrival of the first Europeans. Even now, little is known about these early cultures. More attention is paid to the expeditions of the so-called Bandeirantes: Portuguese pioneers who initially were hunting indians for slavery, and eventually started to explore the interior of Brazil in search of gold and gemstones. These pioneers literally had to cut their routes through the rough, vast wilderness in mountainous Minas Gerais. Their tremendous efforts were awarded with the incredible richness of Minas Gerais: many gold and diamond mines were found and claimed. Cities as Diamantina and Ouro Preto refer to the earth’s riches and became principal cities in Minas Gerais.
Another popular museum is the Natural History Museum that is owned by the Catholic University (PUC-Minas). The museum hosts an elaborate collection of plant and animal remains from various geological eras. Most popular among visitors are the skeletons of the mammoth and the giant sloth, and an stuffed example of what should have been a giant sloth. The dimensions of this enormous mammal are hard to imagine, if you consider the dimensions of its claws. There was a separate room that exhibited the life and works of a Danish scientist: Peter Lund. Lund became famous for his many expeditions of caves in Minas Gerais, and subsequent excavations. Nearby Belo Horizonte, humanoid remands had been excavated and are now claimed to belong to the oldest human on the American continent.
Praça da Liberdade is a favorite square in Belo Horizonte. You may encounter many walkers and joggers; the eclectic-style government buildings attract many tourist and their cameras. At one of the sides is Pálacio da Liberdade, seat of the government of Minas Gerais. This palace is more or less flanked by two works of architect Oscar Niemeyer. The public library is on the right. You can cross the avenue, and you will find the Mineral Museum, named after geologist Prof.
. The elaborate collection is distributed over three floors. You may admire the enormous variety of stones and minerals that are extracted in local mines. From iron ore to gold ore to diamond. Gemstones such as topaz, quartz, ruby, emerald, tourmaline, opal. Another Mineral Museum of importance is the Geology Museum in nearby Ouro Preto.
I didn’t visit just museums this month. I accompanied Cristina, when he visited a benzedor. This spiritual healer lived in Itaúna, at about 100 km from the capital. The road to his house was steep, following the hillside. From there, I admired the magnificent view over the city of Itaúna. At that time, I had no idea what was a benzedor about. But I discovered it very soon. Cristina joined me, when I was invited to enter his prayer room. There was a large table with a large collection of Catholic saints and candomblé gods. There was nothing else in this room. The benzedor smoked a pipe and threw a giant rosary over me, while he was muttering prayers. I followed his directions. Then he worked with búzios – shells -, with which he appeared to receive messages. The session was concluded with tarot. I had to choose a number of cards, and he interpreted them. The entire session took no more than fifteen minutes.
Less than a week later, I visited a spiritist meeting. It is no secret that I have studied a bit about spiritism. The spiritist doctrine might have been introduced by the Frenchman Allan Kardec, but the largest number of followers is in Brazil. A major part of spiritists is also Catholic, while Protestantism denies spiritism. The meeting was at a distant location, not easy to be reached by public transport. A bit isolated, in order to meet spiritual peace. When we arrived there, we were handed a number. This serial number indicated the order of appearance for a personal session with one of the experienced spiritists. These spiritists and their assistants wore white clothes. Around midday, we were invited to join a simple meal, which was free. After lunch, it was my turn. The medium was a young woman, who had spiritual contact with a late Austrian physician. She wrote his ‘message’ and preformed some imaginary routine movements over my body, as if I were treated by the physician himself. A very special experience.
Talking about believing… in the second week of November, Papai Noel (Santa Claus) arrived in Brazil. The tradition of his arrival is quite similar to the arrival of Saint Nicholas in The Netherlands. Santa Claus does not arrive by steamboat, and does not ride a white horse. And he isn’t accompanied by black assistants. Papai Noel has some different appearances, and may arrive by a luxury car, by helicopter, or even by a fire truck, as I have observed in Betim, a suburb of Belo Horizonte. He was accompanied by assistants: beautiful young girls in a Christmas outfit. During one month, children may visit Papai Noel, sit on his lap, ask him personal questions, and hand over personal wishes. Their proud parents will receive an official photograph of this special meeting. Of course, they have to pay for that…
While I was in one of the shopping malls, I observed something green: small conifers. The nameplate surprised me much: Thuia holandesa, a Dutch conifer. This Brazilian Christmas had something Dutch…
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom
- Historical Minas Gerais: CONGONHAS. Passions of Christ (II): ‘Olive Garden’ (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: Bus Travel Belo Horizonte – FORTALEZA (10). The Sandcliffs in Canoa Quebrada (CE) (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- COLORFUL BRAZIL: Water Mirror at Praia do Morro, Guarapari (ES) (adrianoantoine.wordpress.com)
- COLORFUL BRAZIL: Sunset at Praia do Morro, Guarapari (ES) (adrianoantoine.wordpress.com)