The Brazilian Northeast can best be summed up by a
hillarious movie, "O Auto do Colpa Decida," which I
watched while in Bahia.
The stars of the movie are two traditional
Nordestinos (Northeasterners) from the dry, poor
interior of this area of the country. The two guys
try lying their way to a good living. In the process,
they get into all sorts of trouble.
One of the funniest scenes came when the two guys
were about to be killed by a crazy, armed bandit.
They thought quickly and told the bandit they owned a
harmonica which the late Padre Cicero (the most famous
Nordestino religious figure whose statue I saw in
Juazeiro do Norte) had blessed with powers of
reincarnation. To prove the harmonica's powers, one
of the movie's heroes pretended to kill the other by
stabbing him in a bladder of blood hidden beneath his
Then, the harmonica was played. The "dead" came
back to life with a goofy-smiled, arm-swinging,
legs-kicking-together dance to the melody. He claimed
to have seen and spoken to Padre Cicero while dead.
The bandit, excited, begged to be given the harmonica
so he could meet Padre Cicero. The guys agreed. Once
the bandit had been shot and the bandit's friend
learned the harmonica was a dud, the heroes made their
But, the bandit's friend got a little revenge,
putting a bullet through the heart of one of the
liars. The newly dead guy then ascended to the skies
Judgment. (This is where the movie gets its name
from, and, for being in such a silly, comedic movie,
the scene is brilliant.)
The liar was joined by other common Nordestino
sinners: the corrupt bishop; the money-worshipping
priest; the underpaying, slave-driving employer; the
cheating wife; and the crazed, poverty-trapped bandit.
All were being condemned to hell. In front of Jesus
and the devil, the liar was faced with a situation he
couldn't lie his way out of.
It took the appearance of Mary, mother of Jesus,
to save the condemned. She explained the harshness in
the Nordestino life, especially in the interior. The
Brazilian Northeast is a draught-plagued,
education-lacking, opportunity-less, poor place to
live. This is why the Nordestinos lie, steal, cheat
on loved ones, abuse power, try to run each other over
when driving, cut in lines, and use people.
As I've come to learn in 3 ½ months, the
Northeast is a harsh place.
But, it's also a place of huge, monthly parties;
thousands of songs to sing; dozens of different
dances; plenty of games; hundreds of food dishes made
from rice, beans, potatoes, and corn; stories of
folklore and true history; traditional clothes;
tolerance and welcoming of all; an interest in the
unknown; a strong determination to survive; happy,
pretty, seemingly always positive girls; and, above
all, the love of being Nordestino.
The Northeast will always be "my" Brazil.
I'll write now what is written all of over walls
and signs and shops of the Northeast:
"Orgulho de ser Nordestino." (Proud to be
To be honest, though, there are lots of things
there I could do without. On accord with the movie,
even with Mary's argument of their tough existence,
not all the dishonest Nordestinos were saved.
It was a good movie, shedding light on my
And so, Giddyup! I say, to Rio - my entrance into
the working world.
Good-bye, (sniff, sniff) never having to work.
Until next time, Modern Oddyseus
THE MUDGIFLUMP BAMBOOZLEDOM
(just one example of a Northeast song)
Mudgiflump and his men were tight
That day in 1553
All they had were sheets and beds
Not much artillery
But the Colonel, he would not give up
"The Camouflage Magician"
He could hide as a bush in your front yard
Or the fridge that's in your kitchen
And you could open up that fridge
And still not even know
You'd grab a grape or an olive
And it'd be his toe
But the indians, the came on strong
Beneath some sheets, the Colonel hid
With all the girls and boys
He led the town to victory
And its new name of Lençois
Sadly, Mudgiflump went mad
Telling the Portuguese king
How he planned to hide a ship of gold
With only pocket lint
The king had his best cannon-firer
Sent 'Flump to his final destino
And he muttered only four last words
"Orgulho de ser Nordestino"