Soul Of America








Calvin Young




Giant face on the tree in Dromo Arena



  Why only visit the Amazon, when you can include this fabulous festival with Native Brazilians?

   You GOT to go to Parintins, Brazil for the festival week. There is nothing like it on earth! I and ten other world-traveling journalists and authors have never seen anything like it before in the entire world. The 5 and ½ hour performances cause the stadium to rock and roll like no other event that I have witnessed. It is like July 4th, Christmas, New Years, Easter, Mardi Gras, Superbowl, the Rose Bowl Parade and Game, plus some other events all in one. There is patriotic fervor, wild, rhythmic dancing, loud booming music, and nearly crowd hysteria. The party feasts lasts nearly 24 hours a day for the five days. If your body does not move with all that “goin on”, you must be nerve dead.

   These performers have everything. Absolutely drop dead gorgeous women scantily clad in exotic costumes of feathers, beautiful sequined gowns and mannerisms that make the best of Hollywood beauties seem like high school queens. The men are in the best dressed “handsomest” category who sing, dance, and gyrate in a way that that can compete with the best males dancers. Best of all, all this is done in good taste, not over-the-top sexuality of showgirls.

Bells of the Ball dancing at Parintins Festival

   Not only is the stadium rocking and rolling during the nightly performances, the entire town of 100,000 becomes transformed into two camps of red or blue with the addition of 100,000 visitors. Even Coca Cola has entered the fray and authorized the only blue Coca Cola sign in the world. All over the town, spontaneous celebrations of dancing, eating, and friendly shouting matches break out all over the city. Special boats are brought in to handle the crowds as visitors swamp the city. It seems everyone is in a great mood to party 24/7 and have a great time for the five days that constitutes festival week.

  We journalists got in on the feasting as we had the honor of being invited to the home of Sandro Putnoki as he celebrated with family and friends. We had an extraordinary time and felt like family ourselves as we feasted on feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. It consists of beans, pork, collard greens, farofa (manioc fried flour) and slices of orange.  Yeah that’s right, it is soul food. We also drank Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar, and lime. Cachaça is Brazil's most common distilled alcoholic beverage. Like rum, it is made from sugarcane. Cachaça is made from sugarcane alcohol, obtained from the fermentation of sugarcane juice which is afterwards distilled. We also had some really great local Brazilian beer as well as other Brazilian dishes.  Sandro insisted that we all take, and wear the Garantido shirts and take a Garantido mug. We all wore them proudly as we enjoyed the fellowship. I even kissed the cook for the great meal - and I'm as straight as the come. I was reminded how we Americans enjoyed such great family feasts.

Calvin Young (left) and a festival float artist

  We also met the lead singer for Garantido, David Assayag, and his family. We were much surprised to learn that he is blind. He is so expertly lead by his lovely wife during the performance we were oblivious. Everyone was so nice and so hospitable we were all loath to leave and catch our plane to return to Manaus. Sure enough we almost missed out flight. However, before we leave, let us return to the festival.

   The festival performances consist of two teams, the Caprichoso or Blue team, represented by a Black Ox with a blue star, and Garantido or Red team, represented by a White Ox with a red heart. The teams and their fans compete with all the fervor of war, only without the violence. When I went into the factory of the blue team and happened to have on a red shirt, I was refused entry until I changed my shirt. They are absolutely fierce in their determination to beat the other team in the annual three day face-off in a series of performances that lasts three days. The winner has bragging rights for the full year.

Native man float at Parintins

  You have to be there to really understand what I mean. For 2 ½, one team, the Blue Team and 18,000 of their supporters dance and sway to a pounding syncopated beat of drums and other percussion instruments, horns, flutes, organ, and other instruments. As the teams perform in the arena, the supporters in the stands act as a giant, swaying organism acting in unison to squads of team leaders who direct their movements. The shout in unison, they sing in unison, they dance in unison, they throw things in unison; stars, batons, banners, and confetti. And that, is just the beginning.

Forest man gazing upwards

   Teams of performers exhort the crowd and urge them on as they bring hundreds of giant floats in one continuous gigantic performance. Floats is an understatement. These creations, worked on for the past year, breath fire, hang from cranes and possess wild wonderful colors and shapes. They are driven in by autos, brought in in pieces and put together, or hang outside the stadium walls peering in like some giant Gulliver. They tower tens of feet into the air, 50-60 feet high. They are gigantic spectacles of living color, wondrous to behold. All the while, fireworks, worthy of a United States 4th of July or Chinese New Year celebrations, periodically go off in the background outside the stadium, to the cheers of thousands of other supporters outside the arena.

   Most amazing of all, the supporters of the red team, the Garantido, all 18,000 of them are deathly quiet. No sound, no cheers, no boos, no catcalls, nothing. I mean, they are figuratively getting “their heads beat in” for 2 1/2 hours and they take it with the discipline of the stone warriors. That is, until it is their turn. As it turns out, their team would lose points if they do not behave themselves. Partisans of teams all over the world could learn the lesson from these Brazilians on how to be a fan.

A festival dancer at Parintins

   When it is their turn, the team roles are reversed and the red team begin their wonderful show with entirely new songs, dances, and colorful creations of giant figments of imagination.

   At the end of 5 and ½ hours of these performances, I and other journalists were utterly exhausted. I could not have attended the second day of the festival for love nor money, much less the third day. I think you have to develop stamina for this level of enjoyment. Now that I have my “festival legs”, I do plan to go back. I would not miss it for the world.

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