Hola amigos! I am in Colombia now, in Villa de Leyva, a small town that seems to have stopped in the past. But before I tell you of Manaus and Bogotà, where I landed.
Manaus is not the most exciting place in the world. Apart from a certain charm due to its big port in the middle of the Amazon, there is not much to see and do. Furthermore, for some reason, it is also quite expensive.
The only beautiful area is around the Amazon Theatre, opened in 1896, in a period when Manaus suddenly became one of the richest cities in the world thanks to the trading of rubber, which was possible to make only with trees of the Brazilian Amazon.
Various accounts tell of the follies of the rich men of the time: who lit cigars with hundred dollar bills, who used to wash his horse with the champagne, etc… But when the British were able to steal the seeds of the trees which produce rubber for sowing them in their colonies, the monopoly ended and with it the luck of Manaus.
Beautiful and charming is, instead, Bogotà, where, despite the bad name for its recent past, the atmosphere is very quiet, apart from the sight of many different kinds of soldiers who are guarding the streets, some of them armed to the teeth. It’s very pleasant to get around, especially in the area where I stayed, the Candelaria, that, from the main square, climbs up to the mountain with narrow streets and colonial houses. Full of clubs, museums, libraries, universities.
Finally, the place where I am now, Villa de Leyva, a small mountain town. I arrived at night, walking on cobblestone streets between colonial houses. Then, when I popped in the main square, huge, made of large rocks, with little dim lights and a well in the middle, really I thought I finished in the past, like in a science-fiction movie.
In fact, next to the colonial houses, even those built later maintain the same style. People are very kind and although there is not much to do, it makes you want to stay here for long, just doing nothing.
Finally, some thought on Brazil, that I left.
I really like Brazil and in fact it is the only not European nation where I have already been three times. The people are warm, hospitable, cheerful and with great vitality. Even for a somewhat ‘shy as me, it is natural to make friends on any occasion or starting talking on buses, in bars, streets, etc. …
Of course, is not just a bed of roses. The gap between the few rich and many poor is appalling and perhaps nowhere else in the world there is such a large percentage of people who seem unable to go beyond the horizon of football, soap operas, stars of TV and music.
Almost all large cities have favelas and are degraded and a bit dangerous, although, luckily, nothing of bad ever happened to me.
But, in general, Brazil gives me the idea of a young country, optimistic, with a great desire of life. Almost the opposite of Italy and Europe who give me an increasing feeling of oldness and weariness. Like a whimper of impotent agony. And perhaps the only ones who could bring us a graft of vitality are those immigrants, especially Africans, who are instead demonized.
In general, Italy is still better than Brazil, but I don’t think for long. The fact is that while Italy is in free fall, Brazil is in irresistible rise and, unlike Italy, has all it takes to believe in the future: a vast country, full of natural resources, where less than two decades of governments not totally corrupt, sold and unable, made possible an extraordinary boom. Nothing seems can stop this rise, but, maybe, the point is if the many democratic movements that, arising from below, led the Left to power after hard struggles and immense sacrifices, will retain the grit for the future battles for a more equitable distribution of wealth. Or, instead, they will fall asleep on their laurels so that the international finance and similar pigs will devour in one gulp all their social achievements, as happened to our poor Europe. In this case, Brazil will remain the same as always, with a small cast of insanely rich men barricaded in hidden fortresses and the bulk of the population massed in the favelas, glad to look stupid things on TV and to play football on the beach.