1 November 2022

The Captain in His Labyrinth

Forrest Hylton

‘Tá na hora de Jair/arrumar mala e já ir/já ir embora’ (‘It’s time for Jair [Bolsonaro] to pack his bags and go’). All week long, the song kept playing, people kept singing it – waiters, street sweepers, doormen and women, shop assistants, rubbish collectors – and according to word on the beach at Porto da Barra in Salvador da Bahia on Monday morning, it was number two on Spotify. You hear it everywhere. More than any other city and state in Brazil, Salvador and Bahia vote for Lula, not Bolsonaro, who has never won a single district in the country’s third-largest city; Bolsonaro lost the state by 3.75 million votes, with Lula taking 72.1 per cent. When the sun set on Sunday, at roughly 5.30 p.m., Rio Vermelho in Salvador was a sea of people, expectant and dressed in red, waving white banners, awaiting the results of the most important presidential elections in anyone’s lifetime – perhaps the most important the world has seen this century.

18 October 2022

To the Lighthouse

Forrest Hylton

In Brazil, where Christopher Columbus is not well known, 12 October is a federal holiday in honour of children, as well as an important day in the Brazilian Catholic religious calendar, with a pilgrimage in São Paulo to the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida. The statue was supposedly discovered in a river in São Paulo’s interior by three fishermen in 1717, who were blessed by abundant catches thereafter. Though she started out white, the river turned her black; or perhaps it was the smoke from the fishermen’s votive candles. In any event, she is a powerful symbol of liberty for the Afro-descended majority, in a country where slavery formally ended only in 1888.

5 October 2022

The Southern Question

Forrest Hylton

In Porto da Barra, Lula flags waved at the entrances to the beach on Sunday, while part of the crew that works there handed out stickers to passers-by and plastered them on each other. Bolsonaro supporters dressed in yellow and green were few and far between, and, with new reggae songs dedicated to Lula coming out of the soundsystem, Bahia was prepped and ready for a festa. If Bahia were Brasil, that would have happened, since people here voted close to 70 per cent for Lula in the first round of the presidential election, giving him over 3.8 million more votes than Bolsonaro. But Bahia is not Brazil.

30 September 2022

Lula Returns

Forrest Hylton

In spite of a recent drug-related shooting – and mounting violence against PT supporters nationwide – the excitement and ebullience on the beach at Porto da Barra in Salvador are palpable, and barely contained. An older man dressed in yellow who sells cashews took a break for a beer late on Sunday morning, and said he could hardly wait; like many precarious baianos, he is at the end of his rope. The other day, a man who lives on the streets was dressed in a felt hat, rope sandals and an orange jumpsuit with red Lula stickers plastered all over it. In the final days before the general election, Lula is hitting his stride: there is a real chance he will win in the first round.

7 July 2022

Independência da Bahia

Forrest Hylton

On 2 July, Bahian Independence Day, both Bolsonaro and Lula held campaign rallies in Salvador. The far-right incumbent addressed supporters at the Farol da Barra, where the Portuguese and the Tupinambá built the city’s first fort at the turn of the fifteenth century, and went from there by motorcycle cavalcade along the shoreline to Boca do Rio. The left-wing challenger appeared at Dois de Julho, a popular market in the city centre, where the Independence Day parade set off for Campo Grande. The floats commemorated Bahia’s tenacious armed resistance to the Portuguese nearly two hundred years ago: enslaved and free people of colour, indigenous people, caboclos and mestiços, as well as planters and slaveowners, and Maria Quitéria, who disguised herself as a man in order to enlist.

12 March 2022

Bolsonaro’s Gamble

Forrest Hylton

Bolsonaro shares Putin’s loathing of communism and the USSR, and tries to associate Lula and the PT with both. That didn’t stop him, during his recent junket to Moscow, paying tribute to the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis in the Second World War; a position all the more incoherent because neo-Nazis have occupied prominent places in Bolsonaro’s administration.