RAPIDINHAS

    RAPIDINHAS

    There is a sad note about both works reviewed.
    The artists in them are virtual unknowns in their
    own lands,
    no matter how highly acclaimed they
    might be and they are not alone.
    By
    Elizabeth Willoughby

    It’s approaching midnight as restlessness permeates the town. A quiet commotion is stirring as villagers steal out of
    their homes in the middle of the night and head for the historical center of the 421 year-old town, where time has stood still.
    Laden with sacks, buckets and blueprints, they head to their designated area to execute their portion of the plan. By five a.m.
    numerous conspirators have joined the force and, by sunrise, the coalition is in full swing.

    It’s not a political uprising or coup d’état. Only a stones throw away from São Paulo, Brazil, one of the largest cities
    in the world, the small town of Santana de Parnaíba is celebrating Corpus Christi. These people have a unique way to do it.

    About mid May, after selecting a picture-pattern from the town’s priest, participants begin to prepare for the event.
    They will reproduce this picture directly onto the road on the day of Corpus Christi (this year on May 30). Using a variety of
    elements, including painted sawdust, coffee powder, flowers, seeds, and quicklime, they will create a two-kilometer-long rug for
    the church procession to walk over, starting and ending at the Main Church of Sant’Ana.

    Each artist must color enough sawdust, with homemade paint, to make their own three-meter portion. The 1,700 bags
    of sawdust (four truckloads) used by the artisans are acquired from the local furniture factory. Hoping for calm, dry
    weather, they head out to the streets long before sunrise so they have time to complete their creations by 3:30. Then, following
    afternoon mass, the procession leaves the church to walk the carpeted streets carrying the ostensorium.

    Santana de Parnaíba, 35 kilometers from São Paulo and older than São Paulo itself, is famous for its connection to the
    past. The buildings of the historical center have been restored and are maintained true to their heritage, worth a visit in their
    own right. Most of the festivals in the town are practiced as they have been since the festivals began.

    Does this mean the villagers have been creating these striking, sawdust compositions for over four centuries? Not
    quite. This fairly new way of celebrating the holy day was contrived by a young lady named Emília Gil d’Assunção in 1967.

    Previously, homes and offices in town were decorated with pots of red São João flowers. However in ’67, the day of
    observance fell on the same day as O Dia dos
    Namorados, Brazil’s version of Valentine’s Day, June 12. Thirty-one year old Emília
    was working as a schoolteacher in Santana de Parnaíba, though her family lived in another town, Salto de Itu. As was usual,
    they expected her home for the religious event. Her father had no idea that Emília had a boyfriend, and she was not about to
    tell him. Desperate to come up with a reason why she should stay in Santana close to her beau, Emília thought of the carpet
    making. She ran the idea by the priest, the mayor and the school director. Everyone approved.

    Together with her fellow teachers, the first street carpet was created and this form of the celebration has been
    growing every year since. Today, Santana de Parnaíba attracts over 30,000 people who come and go throughout the day. Some
    come for the morning or noon mass, some to watch the carpets being made, visit the craft fair and have lunch, and some to
    watch the procession.

    Formerly, artisans were free to create their own "peaceful and religious" pictures. But the year that the procession
    walked over Jesus Christ carrying a ghetto blaster on his shoulder, the priest decided to preside over future design distribution.

    Emília hasn’t participated in the rug making since 1971. That is when she got married and started her own
    family—yes, with the same young man who inspired her to start the sawdust rugs in the first place. Thirty years later, they are still
    married and Santana de Parnaíba still celebrates Corpus Christi in the same curious, yet resplendent, manner. It’s simply grand.

    Elizabeth Willoughby is a Canadian freelance writer currently living in São Paulo, Brazil. Her columns, "Letters
    Home" and "Going Places" appear regularly in São Paulo media. She can be reached at
    rekw@hotmail.com 
     

    Indy 500
    Unstoppable Brazil

    Phillip Wagner

    Brazilians sneaked into last year’s Indianapolis 500 and
    captured five of the top seven places in front of 400,000
    unsuspecting race fans at what is known as the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. This year the Brazilians mounted an
    undisguised frontal assault, qualifying in three of the top six spots with Bruno Junqueira taking the pole position. The pit crew of
    defending champion Hélio Castroneves dominated a pre-race pit crew competition. Tony Kanaan,
    who qualified in the fifth position, added an exclamation point by posting the
    fastest speed on a day that tradition has mandated should continue to be called
    ‘Carburation Day’.

    The word ‘carburator’ isn’t even recognized by most spell-checkers anymore. And carburators haven’t been used
    at Indianapolis for as long as anyone can seem to remember. Raul Boesel
    qualified third, Hélio Castroneves thirteenth and Gil de Ferran fourteenth. A
    sixth Brazilian, Airton Dare only managed to qualify thirtieth in the thirty
    three car field, but even the slowest car among the 2002 entries qualified at
    a faster speed than the 2001 pole sitter. If the weather would cooperate, ‘a sprint to the finish’ promised to be an apt description for this year’s 200-lap feature.

    The controversial nature of the last second dash between Castroneves and Canadian Paul Tracy notwithstanding,
    Brazil can hardly lose. Before 2001, Brazilian drivers had gone largely unnoticed at Indianapolis, if not Formula Indy. To his
    credit, Raul Boesel consistently presented a good image at Indy. But like so many great drivers, found fortune lacking at the
    ‘Big oval’. So the extraordinary talent of Brazil’s native sons remained as cloaked as
    ‘sleeper’ agents in the international
    intrigue it has become, but no longer. Brazil has always represented an enormous potential market for Formula Indy, which has
    struggled to get attention there. Ironic, since Brazilians drivers have struggled to get attention here.

    TV Globo’s marriage to Formula One, coupled with its dominant role among Brazilian media, has never made it easy
    for Formula Indy to gain exposure in the Brazilian marketplace. But success finds its own way for creating demand. Several
    fans in Brazil had indicated to me, since last year, that they were warming to the idea of splitting their interest and wished the
    Indianapolis 500 would be shown there. This year, no doubt owing to last year’s spectacular showing by the young Brazilians, their
    wish came true. TV Record International, headquartered in São Paulo, contracted to show the race through Ice Miller, a highly
    respected 90 year-old Indianapolis law firm. They no doubt weren’t disappointed.

    A bright race day sun warmed the two and a half-mile oval that, for most of the month, had been anything but warm,
    or dry. Cold wet rain had caused many practice-days, and the second day of qualifications, to be cancelled. It threatened
    the ability for race teams to secure one of the, then nine, still open slots on last chance
    ‘bump day’. But severe storms rolled
    through the day before the race and cleared away any vestiges of bad weather.

    Just before the singing of "Back Home Again in
    Indiana" and the legendary pronouncement of
    "Gentlemen start your engines", a stealth bomber, escorted by F-16 jet fighters, glided over the track. My impression was that it looked like
    an extraterrestrial bird of prey. It’s ominous shadow reminded everyone that the international atmosphere surrounding this
    year’s event was more serious than it had been in 2001. Finally, a roar of engines enveloped the roaring crowd as thirty-three
    sleek, powerful silhouettes sped toward the starters flag; a clean start. But the race nearly had to be restarted. Adrenaline
    pumped drivers had spread to nearly unacceptable spacing on their first approach to the start finish line. Even after the start,
    race officials considered waving the field back in.

    Junqueira jumped out to a quick lead, but almost immediately began to experience problems. Bruno and his team
    devised a work-around over the radio and he quickly recovered to set a blistering pace. Raul Boesel, who has perhaps more
    experience and name recognition than any other Brazilian driver, also laid early claim as a contender.

    When Greg Ray piled his car into a wall on lap 29, the yellow caution flag made its first appearance and Junqueira
    pulled in for a pit stop. The gearbox problem that slowed him early had caused his car to stall, and the lead was lost. But
    Brazilians Tony Kanaan, Gil de Ferran and Raul Boesel were running third, fifth and seventh at time.

    Hélio Castroneves, last year’s winner, quickly rose to ninth. By lap 50, a quarter of the way into the race, Kanaan
    was in a 225 mile an hour three-car wide drag race on the straight-a-way fighting for the top spot. South African Thomas
    Scheckter held (North) American Sam Hornish Junior and Kanaan at bay. But Kanaan slipped into second two laps later, with de
    Ferran, Boesel and Castroneves still in fifth, seventh and ninth. Castroneves moved up to eighth by lap 60, at which time
    Junqueira was running twenty-first.

    Kanaan inherited the lead on lap 63 when Scheckter took a pit stop, but gave it up on lap 67 to pit his own car. By lap
    80 Kanaan and de Ferran were running one and three. As the race neared its midpoint, Brazilian fortunes changed
    dramatically. Junqueira’s engine blew, spilling oil onto the track. Tony Kanaan’s car, following close behind, spun on the slick track
    and crumpled as it met the wall. So Kanaan, who was leading at the time, and Junqueira, who had won the pole position and
    had jumped to an impressive early lead, were suddenly among the first six cars to leave the race. De Ferran moved into
    second place by the midway point of 100 laps, with Castroneves still running eighth.

    De Ferran inherited the lead after 121 laps when Scheckter pulled in for a tire change, then conceded it to Frenchman
    Felipe Giaffóne several laps later to do the same. Pre race talk among race teams had been that wear on the track standard
    Firestone tires would be a problem, particularly under the sun. But the tires held up better than expected.

    De Ferran had already recovered to third by lap 130, and almost immediately moved into second behind Scheckter.
    At lap 142 de Ferran was still in second, Hélio Castroneves had moved into seventh and Airton Dare had climbed all the
    way to sixteenth, but Raul Boesel had slipped to twenty-third. Only 58 laps, little more than a quarter of the race, remained.
    De Ferran re-inherited the lead at lap 150 when Scheckter again pulled in for a pit stop. De Ferran held that lead until lap 161
    when he gave it up to Alex Barron, a San Diego native. That marked the seventeenth lead change among eight drivers in the
    race. Three of those, of course, had been Junqueira, Kanaan and de Ferran. It appeared that one more pit stop per driver
    would be needed.

    South African Scheckter, who had regained the lead, was collected into the track wall before lap 175, caving in the
    right side of his car. Frenchman Giaffóne moved in front under the yellow caution flag, and it appeared that de Ferran would
    shortly recapture it. But, unbelievably, de Ferran’s car lost a wheel coming out of the pits. Defending champion Hélio
    Castroneves, who had quietly been moving up in the field, and decided to gamble that he could finish the race without taking another
    pit stop, assumed the lead on lap 178. It was the 21st lead change and he became the fourth Brazilian to lead in the race.

    Although his crew resolved his tire problem, de Ferran had fallen to eleventh place. As the race entered lap 187 of
    200, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Castroneves could complete the race without another pit stop. If the
    answer was yes, we might see the same driver, a Brazilian in his only two appearances
    ever at the track no less, in the winner’s
    circle for the second straight year. Thirty laps had already passed since his last pit stop. Forty-two laps without a pit stop
    would be a surprising accomplishment. Conventional wisdom said it couldn’t be done.

    As the clock ran down, Castroneves began to stretch his lead. Second place Frenchman Giaffóne struggled to pass
    slower cars on the crowded track. Soon there were only 6 laps to go. Castroneves began to slow and Giaffóne threatened to
    take the lead. The Canadian, Paul Tracy, slipped past Giaffóne. Tension mounted as Tracy pulled alongside Castroneves
    with barely more than a lap to go. Approaching the final lap Tracy appeared to take the lead. But there was an incident on the
    track behind the leaders. The yellow caution flag was waving as the pass occurred, and it was disallowed. Track officials
    motioned Castroneves back into the lead and he crossed the "Brickyard’s" start-finish line as the provisional winner.

    De Ferran finished tenth, Dare thirteenth and Boesel twenty-first. All in all, another remarkable showing by Brazilians
    driving their way into the hearts of North American racing fans. Especially considering the misfortunes Junqueira, Kanaan and
    de Ferran. As Brazilian soccer fortunes have waned, their Formula Indy fortunes have risen. Perhaps Rubens Barrichello
    should consider trading in his Formula One credentials for Formula Indy opportunities where, apparently, Brazilian drivers are
    encouraged to compete to win. We’ll see Rubens here in any case when Formula One returns to Indianapolis in September.

    Phillip Wagner is a free-lance photojournalist, a frequent traveler to Brazil and a regular contributor to
    Brazzil. Phillip’s focus is on Brazilian culture and "constructive social engagement" that helps Brazilians to become self-sufficient.
    Phillip is a 1979 graduate of Indiana University and resides in Indianapolis; visit his Brazil Web Pages at
    http://www.iei.net/~pwagner/brazilhome.htm  and/or contact him directly at
    pwagner@iei.net  

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