Return to Nova Odessa
Since my upcoming flight back home is scheduled from an airport in São Paulo, Brazil, I knew I wanted to spend some more time in the town of Nova Odessa that is located quite nearby. Why there? It has one of the major Latvian communities in the whole continent. And, having already spent there two days this July, I was eager to go back and see some of the people there again. But, most importantly, I wanted to provide some assistance to the Brazilian Association of Latvian Culture with the events. I wouldn’t have wished for a better time to be there, for in November, there were quite a few things to do. And so I can call myself happy to have been able to take part in the commemoration of the 97th anniversary of the Republic of Latvia (where I somehow accidentally found myself singing in two choirs), the creating of the Association’s library catalogue, and the dinner celebrating the 36th anniversary of the Association itself.
It’s amazing how close the Brazilian Latvians are to each other and how diligently they maintain Latvian traditions and the Latvian language. But even more outstanding is the fact that through their work they spark interest in not just the descendants of Latvians who arrived in Brazil a century ago (or earlier), but also in the Brazilians themselves! And the family I was staying with this time was a true example.
Meet the Campos Family! They have never had any relation whatsoever with any Latvian family in Brazil or elsewhere. AND YET they are participating in the events organized by the Association, they are learning the Latvian language, singing Latvian songs in two choirs, and they have even been to Latvia itself! AND they are going back again in 2018! So amazing! I was so grateful for having a chance to spend time with them, for they also turned out to be very kind and goodhearted people. And equally lovely was their dog Mel – she was a real cuddler!
The event I was so eager to attend (that eventually forced me to take a plane to get to Nova Odessa on time) was the celebration of Latvian Independence Day on the 18th of November. But, due to most attendees’ lack of availability on weekdays, the celebration was taking place on 14th of November, a Saturday.
Having arrived in Nova Odessa on the 12th, the next day I already attended a choir rehearsal which eventually led to taking part in not just one, but two choir performances at the event itself. It was well-attended, bringing together people from near and far.
On the actual day of the anniversary, a group of people met at 8:00 am at the municipality of Nova Odessa to raise the Latvian flag alongside the flags of Brazil, the municipality itself and the State of São Paulo. In the evening, many gathered at the Latvian Honorary Consulate in Nova Odessa, whose host Daina Gutmanis and representatives of the Brazilian Latvian Association welcomed everyone with a film about the four national symbols of Latvia – the flag, the coat of arms, the hymn and the language – and a presentation about the Freedom Monument in Riga, the capital of Latvia, followed by a fine meal consisting of different types of pizza. The meal was thoroughly delicious and would have been truly enjoyed by everyone if not for one miniscule detail – one of the pizzas supposedly vegetarian-friendly was regrettably peppered with bits of bacon. Oh, well.
The Brazilian Association of Latvian Culture has done a really great job collecting and cataloguing books from/about Latvia and Latvian expatriates in Brazil and other countries. But when I arrived they still needed some help with finishing the catalogue. And so a few days I could be found at a local church that was housing the small library, going through the volumes that still needed registering.
And, honestly, I can’t express how happy I was for having something to do. All my hitchhiking days when I spent hours and hours each day just waiting for rides while listening to music and/or reading books (or doing nothing at all), and the days spent on the boats in the Amazon doing exactly the same may have been nice at the beginning, but in the end left me mindless and uninterested in life. Every man with some brains needs work, and so do I.
This last event – which took place on my last evening in Nova Odessa – was once again attended by great many people from near and far. And this time, I had some responsibilities too.
My task number one was to create a photo wall where people could come and see the photos from this year’s events by the Association. My task number two – take photos at the dinner itself, so that the Association would have photos to stick on a wall the next year. In both these tasks I received great assistance from other volunteers who had some time to spare.
The next day I already boarded a bus to São Paulo, to spend my last days in South America with a friend Marlene, who also hosted my during my brief stay in the Latvian community of Varpa.
Não sei como agradecer a todas as pessoas que eu conheci e com quem passei o tempo durante estas duas semanas! Muito, muito obrigado Felipe, Renāte, Gedalva, Enrique, Matteus, Amanda, Camila, Rodrigo, Daina, Gunta, Lucas, Fabio e muitos mais! Se um dia alguém de vocês chegam até Letônia novamente, me escrevem. Combinamos algo juntos! E também espero que no ano que vem eu consigo voltar para Brasil para visita-los!