If there’s a tourist neighbourhood in Salvador, this the
one—souvenirs stores, opportunities to pose with the traditional white Bahia dress
or with a rasta hat (fake dreadlocks included, because let’s face it, white
people just can’t rock dreadlocks), overpriced restaurants and street folks who
really want to paint white tribal symbols on your arms and legs for five reais
(I’m half-convinced it’s a local joke to spot tourists). Hell, I even bought a
new pair of Havaianas in the Pelourinho.
But “o Pelô” isn’t “just” an empty shell for tourists, it’s packed
with people who are the heart and soul of Salvador and fortunately, they
outnumber us. Plus the cobblestone-paved streets are lovely and some of them offer
a fascinating glimpse into Afro-Brazilian culture.
Yes, there are black people around. Many of them are tall,
young men. They won’t rob you, don’t be scared. (Sorry, this is what I really
wanted to tell some tourists who seemed to keep a hand on the taxi car while
taking pictures with the other, as if they had to be ready to jump back into
the car at any minute.)
There are so many churches around that an atheist could turn
into a true Jesus fan at the end of the day.
Didn’t work with me, though. However, the Pelô made me believe
in us, humans, the fascinating ways we live our lives, express ourselves and
find our place in the world. From the most dodgy ladeiras to the
police-patrolled Largo do Pelourinho, I spent hours in the Pelô observing the
many faces of Brazil.