Holidays

Pride and culture on display at Brazilian Day in Sacramento

Rapidinha Rouhani Dantas leads the Women’s Brazilian Drum Group during the Brazilian Day Sacramento Street Festival on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The festival is a free annual celebration of Brazil’s independence from Portugal.
Rapidinha Rouhani Dantas leads the Women’s Brazilian Drum Group during the Brazilian Day Sacramento Street Festival on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The festival is a free annual celebration of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The rhythms, beats and diversity displayed at the Rio Olympics came to midtown Sunday at the Brazilian Day Sacramento Street Festival.

At 20th and J streets, performers in yellow T-shirts plucked ancient instruments while performing capoeira, a Brazilian dance that combines music and chanting with martial arts.

Capoeira is believed to date back to the 17th century, when Brazilian slaves played a single-string musical bow attached to a hollowed-out gourd.

The performance by Mestre Caboclinho TABCAT of Sacramento was led by festival organizers José Dantas, a Brazilian immigrant, and his Brazilian American wife, Roshani Dantas of Casa De Brazilian Folkloric Arts of Sacramento.

The festival – which included food booths, dance, drumming, singing and poetry – drew several hundred people, including Brazilians from Davis to Grass Valley. It was linked to Brazilian Independence Day, which falls on Sept. 7.

One festivalgoer, Fabiana Amelio of Rio, was still high-fiving her friend Bia Edwards of Sao Paulo over Brazil’s gold medal in soccer, avenging the humiliating 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

Amelio, 28, now a Portuguese teacher in Sacramento, called the Rio Olympics an “astonishing” vindication for her troubled nation.

“I believe Brazilians were right when they were concerned about the investment of public money,” she said. “Brazil is very corrupted.”

But she said the Games’ celebration of Brazil’s culture and can-do spirit represented a good start toward reforming the system.

Edwards, the founder of NorCal Curumim, a nonprofit dedicated to Brazilian culture, said she chose not to go to the Olympics, afraid it would turn into chaos.

“I was very worried because I know how many problems my country has,” said the Grass Valley resident. “But they shut my mouth – it was safe and well-organized and it made me very proud. I loved it.”

Sunday’s festival included Brazilians with African, indigenous and European roots.

Leticia Vieira, an immigrant from Sao Paulo studying pharmacy at UC Davis Medical Center, said Italian, Spanish and Portuguese blood flows through her veins, but she’s 100 percent Brazilian.

She, too, was bursting with pride that Brazil not only beat Germany on penalty kicks to win the gold, but pulled off the entire Olympics despite the poverty and corruption that’s dominated the news in Brazil.

“I’m glad we won; I was nervous,” said Vieira, 21. “If they are able to use those buildings they put up for the Olympics for education or public health care and give back to the population, then the people will win, too.”

Romilda Martins, an immigrant from Goiania, Brazil, who has been in Sacramento for 23 years, wore a T-shirt with the green-yellow-and-blue Brazilian flag and the words “Ordem e Progresso,” meaning “order and progress.”

“Me and my mom screamed like crazy when we won the gold medal in men’s soccer, and we won gold in men’s volleyball, also,” she said, a huge smile spreading across her face. “It was awesome.”

Martins said that although the world saw the crushing poverty of the favelas, or slums, she said the Olympics also put a spotlight on the positive spirit that emanates from those areas and permeates Brazilian culture wherever it exists.

“Although we are compared to other Latinos, we are totally different,” she said. “In our own way we like to be happy, we like to be dancing, we like to eat, and we have a lot of pride.”

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini

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