So IES was able to visit Bahia, and honestly it was one of the best experiences of my Brazilian life and general-Ramelcy life! The city is just so different from Rio in a refreshing unique way. It has a much slower pace, but the people are so warm and welcoming. Their pride in their Blackness and their ancestral and cultural history is so genuine, you can’t help but want to learn more and want to feel that way even about your own history.
The food! The fooooood! Bahian cuisine was amazing. Moqueca with shrimp was definitely my favorite. Moqueca is a stew with coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander, and palm oil! It is LIFE given straight from the gods! This trip was also the first I was able to have plantains since I’ve been here, and what a beautiful privilege it was! The fried codfish balls with a spicy dip were amazing! The red beans! Point is, Bahia knows how to throw in the kitchen and if you ever get the chance to visit, bring an empty stomach.
During our trip, we were able to learn more about the history of slavery and Blackness in Bahia. We visited churches built by enslaved peoples, saw an underground route used by enslaved peoples to escape, went to a Candomblé ceremony, had Capoeria classes to learn both the music and the moves, learned more about the spiritual presence in Bahia, did an Afro dance class, went to a Quilombo (which are the communities escaped slaves created) and visited the Steve Biko Institute. The visit to the Steve Biko was super educational and exciting because we got to meet Bahian youth and hear more about their experiences and activist involvement with the organization. At the institute, we learned about the issues of access regarding quality education and higher education. I learned that even though Bahia is 80% Black, to date, about (maybe even less than) 25% are in college/university. We also learned more about how Brazilian’s image of “racially mixed” often erases the social problems that Black and Indigenous peoples face. These lessons have very much deepened my understanding of struggles in Brasil.
Facing these realities are always difficult because they’re honestly saddening, but learning about all of the faces of Brasil make it feel like we are doing our experience justice. We are not just glossing over the parts we don’t like, but embracing the entire picture. We are seeing the nation for what it is.
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<div>I'm a student, a friend, a naturalista, a budding activist, a writer, a wom@nist/feminist, an intellectual, a Tupac-lover, a New Yorker, and a person in process all wrapped in one. I'm living on the hyphen of many identities that allow me to see the world in a critical, refreshing way; and at the intersections of many struggles and journeys that I would love for you to join me on. :)</div>