By Katia Moraes
In the beginning of November I heard that my friend Daniel had a nervous breakdown. Some people brought him to a hospital after asking a doctor to evaluate his problem. This made me think about how melancholy some Brazilians get in the end of the year. I thought about Gandhi’s autobiography and the books I read about Buddhism trying to find a lost link, one that I can’t find in the Catholic Church anymore. Righteous to say that melancholy is not a matter of season changing.
It’s summer in Brazil and the idea of getting together with the family is not very enchanting for a lot of people. And it is even less attractive when you are living outside of your country of origin. I believe we are all citizens of the world, but people’s psyche has remembrances, which makes us unique. Like the writer Willian Styron says, “The melancholy is a psychic sadness.”
On a Thursday in November I had a little chat with the singers Sônia Santos e Ana Gazzola. Ana remembers that Christmas in Rio Grande do Sul (the most southern state of Brazil) was always a joyful event. Her mother, super catholic, used to organize a service and a live Nativity scene with the kids. I could visualize the scene with the kids running the entire place while she described it. Later, Ana gradually stopped going to church after moving to Los Angeles, but still prays. She always feels calmer when her mother reminds her that she’s being protected by six guardian angels. These last years she has been going to a Buddhist temple to sing the “Nam myo ho ren ge kyo” mantra.
She says she feels lighter and more hopeful doing it. Sônia grew up in Rio de Janeiro and her father was a spiritualist Kardecist (from Kardecismo; a religious doctrine created by the French spiritualist Alan Kardec in the 19th Century). Every year he’d give a speech about how people would drink too much on Christ’s birthday and transform it into a carnaval. Here in the United States she didn’t find Kardecismo’s warm words or discussions that she was used to. A way to fill this hole is talking to the family on the phone. The phone bill is expensive, but her soul gets soothed. Do people’s hypocrisy grow together with their level misery? I have the tendency to believe this is true all over the world.
The singer Renni Flores from Bahia left Catholicism when she noticed this dichotomy. Nowadays she talks with God and has found comfort in expressing her spirituality this way. “It was horrible to watch people being so inhumane right outside the church’s door. It was like they had already forgotten everything that had just been preached.” The president of the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center, Amén Santo, never liked that hypocrisy, and doesn’t like the over exacerbated Christmas shopping. He grew up in a candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) environment, but used to go to church “like any other Brazilian”. He never felt comfortable looking at statues of a crucified Jesus Christ.
The pianist and composer Rique Pantoja is a Christian and there are no statues in his church. He also grew up in a Catholic family, but thinks that hypocrisy is inherent to human beings. Praying is part of his day by day routine and he talks with God all the time. Alfredo Fulchignoni works for the Kingdom Broadcast Network and was raised in a Italian Catholic family, but became an Evangelic Christian in 1992. He can’t drink alcohol, smoke, and told me that he gets into a reflection phase at this time of the year.
The drummer Sandro Feliciano always spends Christmas in São Paulo. For him Christmas is about family. He plays gospel in a non-denominational church that does not have statues in it, but has a crucifix. The presence of music in the worship of American churches attracted him since there was no such thing in Brazil when he left. When the artist Áureo Silva was a little boy, his Baptist family didn’t allow any drinking and smoking as well. When he became a teenager he wanted to go to the parties instead of the service. His mother put so much pressure on him that he rebelled. Nowadays he thinks he is a spiritual person, and talks to his “guide” when he feels unbalanced.
The majority of the Brazilians I talked to grew up in a Catholic environment and used to love to be part of the live Nativity Scene and the church choir. They feel they are spiritual human beings. They say they try to treat people the way they’d like to be treated. They like to talk with God in their own way, and don’t like to be pressure to convert to any religion. The melancholy shows up when there is some kind of saudade (a missing feeling). Saudade of the mother’s rabanada (kind of French toast made on Christmas time), of the grandma’s cafuné (affection), of the auntie’s cod fish stew, of the laid back chat while drinking wine, of the warmth that was not found in the country he lives in, and some other things.
One of the reasons of that melancholy comes is the knowledge that a lot of other families won’t get any presents, or even have a plate with food. Brazilians are highly hopeful people, so Iet’s pray for in the near future, every Brazilian have three meals a day, and more opportunities in the education and job field.
*Katia Moraes is a composer, singer, writer and long time Soul Brasil magazine contributor. She is a native from Rio and lives in Los Angeles – www.katiamoraes.com