Special to the “New York Times”



Special to the “New York Times”

Publicado em 22 de julho de 2005 por Olegario Schmitt

Still "frozen-whitened", a field at the sunrise in Boca do Monte, district of Santa Maria City

These Gaucho towns have its peculiarities, a modus vivendi out of the national pattern, if one does exist. These characteristics are more visible at winter times, when fields rise, in local expression, “frozen-whitened”.

Winter temperatures varying between 23 and 59 °F, make essential the presence of a wood stove, working like some kind of fireplace, with the advantage that you can cook over it, merging together usefull cooking with very pleasant warming.

Long time ago, mom tells me, used to snow regularly around here and, she also says, we used to have four well defined seasons a year.

Although actually, making cold in summer and heat in winter, still snows on the mountains sometimes and the Minuano Wind resists bravelly. Cruel, it passes through gaucho clothes as a real knife made only of cold, dropping down the thermal sensation to some degrees less than thermometers show.

That’s why, at coldest times of the year, we adopt lizard habits. This actitude, called by us of to lizard, have its name inspirated in the lizards, these cold blooded animals that use to stare at the sun to get warm. Here around it’s an habit, almost an obligation, to say to someone who’s staring at the sun: “Lizarding, huh!?“.

Here in Santa Maria, a town with aproximatelly 300,000 habitants placed right in the middle of Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil, between the end of the mountain range at north and the start of Pampa at south, it couldn’t be any different. Walking down the Calçadão (town center) in any wintery morning, we can see this large group of lizarders, some of them professionals, stretched out at the sun.

This group, formed at most by retired pensioners, isn’t of exclusive use by this category, because around here anyone can find some time to lizard too. Side by side with experienced lizarders, there’s also young apprentices, ordinary and high society persons, gauchos caractherized or not. In a democratic way, they talk about our political and social lives from town itself to all over country, read the newspapers, drink mate (a traditional tea, pronounced maa-tea), or do absolutelly nothing at all.

The most characteristic peculiarities of our region are, of course, ourselves: the gauchos. Not mattering the wheather, if it’s day or night or wherever we are, it doesn’t take too much time to a tipical gaucho to appear. In Rio Grande do Sul, gaucho‘s traditional clothes, also called pilcha (pronounced peel-shah), are considered really equivalent to black-ties. I’ve heard histories of gauchos that, out of our region, tryed to get in gala events wearing pilchas and were barred at the door.

Our town’s central plaza, also called Saturnino de Britto, is the better place to lizard after Calçadão. Reformed a few years ago, it still keeps its bandstand and its fontain. Was also added an arena for public presentations, just like the ancients roman theaters. Disposed around this plaza are Theatro Treze de Maio (May 13th Theater), Culture House (old Forum) and Independency Cine (where I for the first time went to the movies, to watch The Wizard of Oz), this one being transformed in a popular mall (sic) by town’s administration (the other alternative was demolition). In this cental plaza there’s also a figurehead of Felippe D’Oliveira poet, who was one of the 1922’s Brazilian Modern Art Week expoents, sculptured by Brecheret.

To lizard downtown Santa Maria is to exercize the most tranquil aspect of this interioran town, with its peculiarities and its calm plazas. Forgetting for an instant the growing violence, transit congestions, houseless people invading public areas and administrative indifference about the public patrimony, we can also forget all our social and personal differences. This way, between poors and richs, olds and youngs, famous and anonymous, we establish this kind of Sun Democracy: here in Santa Maria City, it really rises for everyone.

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