It is festival time here in Santa Luzia, Festa dos Pescadores, to be exact and it is THE BIG PARTY of the year. This small fishing village has gone all out this year, after having scaled down events the past two years due to the pandemic. What I saw last year—a few kiddie rides, some boat races, and a small procession for the blessing of the fleet—did NOT prepare me for this year. At all.
For the past five or six days, the entire main drag of town has been shut down to through traffic. A large concert stage sits at one end of town, blocking the street. From the soundstage all the way through town down to the fisherman’s huts at the other end, there are rows of booths and festival carts lining both sides of the streets. There are two (maybe three) pork carts where an entire pig is roasted. There are waffle carts (which turned out to be a small disappointment, but then, I had very high expectations), booths for cheeses and meats and crafts and cocktails(!) and shoes and hats and local civic associations. The oven baked pizza guys are my new best friends. The street has turned into a pedestrian walkway. The bakery downstairs has stayed open past midnight for the past four nights and they’ve been busy right up to closing. Every restaurant on the main street is slammed in spite of the food carts. It is good to see local businesses doing a brisk trade.
Today is the last day of the festival and I had a pretty good view of the “pole walking” which is sort of like a greased pole climb… except it’s horizontal, not vertical. A long spar is set up in the bow of one of the local fishing boats, with most of the pole stretching out over the water. (If you look VERY closely at the right hand side of the picture, you’ll see the boat.) The trick is to walk out on the pole as far as possible before you inevitably slip off and fall into the water. It was surprisingly entertaining. I sat out on my balcony with a large glass of a local red and spent a pleasant couple of hours watching men and boys step out onto the pole, get a two-step start, and then attempt to slide their way to the end. Who knew there were so many different ways to fall into the water? The dismounts were sometimes well executed including some cartwheels and sometimes not. One poor guy landed crotch first on the pole, then bounced off. (Even the women watching said, “Oooff!”) At least the water is cold enough to numb the sore parts for him.
The channel itself was wall-to-wall boats. It reminded me of 4th of July in San Francisco Bay where you can walk from San Francisco to Sausalito just by stepping boat to boat. (Okay, maybe a bit of stretch, but not much.) The ferries were rerouted to the fishing pier instead of the ferry landing, because of the boating events taking place in the channel. Boats were blaring their air horns, people were whistling to get friends’ attention, there was a boat with a sound system blasting music and making announcements. After the pole walking (or sliding, really), there were boat races and more partying, both on land and on boats.
I had wandered the booths and food carts several times already. I am happy to sit on my balcony and people watch. Kids have bubble guns and the bubbles go floating by. I watch a man carrying three beers back to his booth, doing the “beer run” (more of a stroll) for his fellow workers. The hat booth must be doing well, judging by the number of new hats I see going past. I was tempted to get one but figured I could get one just as nice in town at non-festival prices. I’ll be here next week. Many of the festival goers will not.
Thousands of people visit over the four day event, enjoying the celebration. They eat, walk, dance in the streets. They watch the blessing of the fleet and the performances of the local children’s dance group.
There is loud music from the vendors until about ten o’clock at night… which is when the main stage gets cranked up with the live bands. The bands play til 4:00 or 5:00 am. Yes. All. Night. Long. Even though I am several blocks away, I can hear the music fairly well. It sounds good from here. I would not want to be closer.
When the bands stop, people walk back down the street and sit at the tables below me, talking (LOUDLY), waiting for the bakery to open.
Between the bands, dancers, strolling accordion players, children laughing, friends greeting each other, it’s hard to stay focused. All this is to say that some days your work will not get done. That day is today for me. Three hundred and sixty or so days a year, this is a sleepy little village. This week has been a full-on carnival and I’ve had a front row seat. When a slice of local culture is going on just outside your door, resistance is futile. And stupid. I mean, hell, this is why I moved here. It’s time to grab a Sex on the Beach from the cocktail booth and a churro just to keep my sugar levels up, and join in the fun. The work can wait.
And I can sleep tomorrow.