The home of chocolate

By: Bella Papadopoulou.

It was New Yorker Alan Slesinger that brought new life to what was an old colonial building from the 30s. Today Vila Rosa is standing proud on a 100-hectare piece of land that is part cocoa farm and part paradise.

Vila Rosa

One morning, we met in front of Alan´s café Casarão Azul and before boarding his Land Rover that carried us to Taboquinhas where the Vila is located, Alan says, ”this experience will be totally different from what we are expecting”.

Driving there was half the fun. We drove through the untouched Atlantic forests, farms of palm trees, and açaí fruit growing wild. From high above we can see the river, Rio de Contas, that starts off in Chapada Diamantina and ends up in Itacaré, making a stop in Vila Rosa first.

”I think that what will make your trip special is the beauty of the place… and, of course, some chocolate on top of that” Alan says while we drive the 30 km away from Itacaré where only 10 are asphalted; so buckle up.

Where does chocolate come from? We all eat it, crave it – some even claim not to be able to live without it; yet, very few know from where it actually originates. And it is sure to say that a tour around the cocoa farm at Vila Rosa will clear out all question marks.

This is where it all starts…

We finally arrived at Vila Rosa and were welcomed by Alan´s dog, Museum, who happily greeted us all. Around us there are only flowers and trees of all variations and with only one breath you feel like you are in a totally different world. Looking around the green scenery (and the very organised cobble stoned paths) Vila Rosa stands out among the flowers, making a fine first impression.

Cocoa

We started the tour around the farm that is home for over 40 different types of fruits and berries while Alan explained the entire process of making chocolate from scratch. The farmers are very careful not to harm the environment and this is why they grow the plants organically. The plant’s seeds (or beans) are used to make chocolate, the juice is pressed and made into beverage and the remains of the cocoa fruit is used for composting so as not to waste anything.

Maria Leticia Ribas was one of the visitors in our group and she was absolutely amazed by the tour. ”It was a surprise to see that chocolate starts off as a seed. I was also surprised by its taste as I thought it would be sweet but it was, in fact, very sour” she says.

After the tour, we visited the mansion at Vila Rosa that has been restored into a museum. There we saw how the family that used to reside there lived in the 30s. It also gave us insight into the life of a cocoa farmer in this region.

Our day at the farm came to an end with a delicious New York-style pizza slice and some freshly made cocoa juice directly from the farm. Then we drove back to the modern world, where chocolate does not come from a tree but from the nearest supermarket.

If one day is not enough, one can also have a colonial dinner or stay the night at Vila Rosa. Check out Vila Rosa’s official website for more information.

Itacaré’s Fairy God Mother, Ronara Santos

By Lala the Sunchaser.

Do you believe in fairy tales? The longer I stay in Itacaré, the more I believe.

Some days I feel as though I’m in a dream or on a movie set in paradise. But it’s not only the natural beauty that evokes these feelings, it’s the people who live here too. For the past five months, I’ve been volunteering with an organization called Punho Forte which loosely translates to Fight Back. Punho Forte is a non-profit before and after school program that promotes education, optimal health, foreign language development, and extracurricular activities. Ronara Santos, Professor of Basic Education Studies for sixteen years, is the fairy God Mother at Punho Forte. I was surprised to hear that she’s only been working with them for one year. It’s as if she has been there since the beginning. The children adore her!
ronara_kidsWhat is your first memory of Itacaré?

I arrived during my adolescent years (22 years ago), I remember meeting my friends at the Praça de São Miguel near the big church. I also remember how peaceful it felt. There was hardly any violence back then.
churchWhere do you live and with whom?
I have lived on Pituba 3 for the past ten years with my daughter and my dog, Bigu (short for Bigurrilho which means little fragile thing). A most-fitting name indeed.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Singing, painting, sewing (she made the dresses for the holiday, São João, using left over junk food packaging), and any thing related to the arts.

What is your favorite type of music and who are some of your favorite artists or singers?
I love Brazilian Popular Music (M.P.B.). My favorite singers in this category are Marisa Monte and Vanessa da Mata. I also love the classic singers … Maria Bethania, Gal Costa, Roberta Sa, and Djavan … she kept rattling on names until I had to stop her … then she blurted out, oh and my favorite samba musician is Nelson Cavaquinho. Look on the internet for his music, you will love it!

If you had three wishes, what would they be?
1) That my children grow to be independent and well-formed in society.
2) That I have the energy to help others more.
3) I also wish to learn how to reciprocate more, and be less egotistical in the process.
What do you hope for the future of Itacaré? Taking an enormous deep breath: Our government and the people must get better at organizing the small things … being better administrators. The main areas that need support are education, maintaining and enriching our culture, security (for locals and tourists), and better health care.
Itacaré may be paradise but let’s just say I would never want to get seriously injured here.

What do you hope for the future of Punho Forte?
– to build our own space (currently the use a space on loan in one of the schools)
– to attract more volunteers – to secure better financing to execute more projects
– to offer professional courses so the children feel equipped to be in the world and workforce
Favorite Itacaré beach?
Resende and Jeribucaça

Favorite restaurant?
Manga Rosa for their fish. Ronara loves to cook and bake. Her final words on the subject of eating were, “I adore anything made with chocolate.”

Do you have any plans to leave Itacaré?
Not at all. I want to stay here. It’s where I constructed my life story … where I studied, had a family, and build my career in education. I love living here.
In addition to looking after the many children of Punho Forte, Ronara supports her two teenage children and spends time with her partner who lives in Salvador. She is a most certainly a guiding light, adding to the magical beauty in Itacaré.

“You know you are from Itacaré when…”

By: Bella Papadopolou.

Just like any other place, living in Itacaré shapes your daily routines after a while. It seems that there are some things that are so deliciously contagious, that anyone spending more than a few days here will adapt to. We asked both locals and “localised” visitors about this and had them complete the sentence “You know you are from Itacaré when…” and below are the most popular answers:

1. You know you are from Itacaré when you hang out at the beach everyday.

Well, with so many beautiful Atlantic forest surrounded beaches, it is hard to stay at home. The beach here is not a place to go to on weekends but more of an inevitable part of a lifestyle.

2. You know you are from Itacaré when you use the same Havaianas for work, beach and the party.

Why change when they are so comfy and practical? Enjoy a place that socially accepts Havaianas as proper dress code for every occasion. Play around with colors and patterns, as there is a big selection available.

3. You know you are from Itacaré when surfing is more trumps eating, sleeping and working.

It is hard not to become a beach-bum in a town where there are breaks for every style and level. Grab a board, head out to the sea with your other beach-bummers and have some fun catching the waves.

4. You know you are from Itacaré when you say “Oi!” to Dinha on the street.

I guess it is no secret that you are “localized” when you give heads up to the town’s famous vaxing-lady, Dinha, on the street. You are in Brazil. Go Brazilian.

5. You know you are from Itacaré when the guy who sells sunglasses on the beach stops showing his goods to you.

The first sign of being “localized”: the sellers have lost faith in you ever buying something from them and instead they proceed in completely ignoring you.

6. You know you are from Itacaré when you can’t walk down Pituba Street without at least 3 people saying “Tudo bem?”.

You will soon notice how easy it is to make friends here and by the end of your vacation (if you don´t decide to stay forever and ever) you will be “Oi-ing” on every corner.

7. You know you are from Itacaré when the rain is an acceptable excuse to do nothing.

Bahia is the place where sunny days are a promise. When the sun strikes: strike back!

8. You know you are from Itacaré when you don’t go to the beach everyday and – when you finally do – you sit in the shade.

This is also true. Although the beach makes a crucial part of your Itacareense life, we do get spoiled of having beach-days on a daily basis and eventually will take breaks from it.

9. You know you are from Itacaré when you can have an entire conversation based on the words “beleza” and “massa”.

They say that a picture is worth more than 1000 words. So are the words “beleza” and “massa” which literarily translate into “beautiful” and “great”. Although they can mean everything from “what´s up?” to “let’s go!”

10. You know you are from Itacaré when you feel like being a part of the Itacareense family.

Last but not least: the feeling on belonging to the flock, which normally takes years to happen, in Itacaré takes only one Caipirinha.

Brazilian National Day in Itacaré

By: Bella Papadopoulou

The celebrations were on in Itacaré as it was the anniversary of Brazil’s Independence from Portugal. On the 7th of September in1822, Prince Pedro declared the Independence of Brazil when he said the famous phrase “Independencia ou morte” (Independence or death).

Independence day is a red day celebrated all over the country and while big parades are held in the major cities, the Itacarensees cruise down to the beach for some chillax. But even Itacaré has a parade of its own where children of all ages gather and march through town together.

Just like that day in 1822 when Prince Pedro stood up for his country, the 7th of September still remains a day of getting your message across. This year the main theme of the parades were ecology and sustainability, raising awareness around an issue that has been under the microscope in Brazil lately with both theUN´s sustainable convention being held in Rio and new imposed legislation regarding the Amazon.

The children marched through the streets of Itacaré holding small trees planted in recycled plastic bottles in their hands while showing signs with messages like ”take care of the nature and throw your garbage in the bin”.

Yvonne Delos Reyes is volunteering at the NGO ”Punho Forte” where the kids organised a big parade for the occasion. ”It was a truly amazing experience to be part of this celebration and all of the children were very excited to be a part of the parade” she says.

In Brasília, the celebration takes place at the Ministries Esplanade with a military parade in the presence of the President of Brazil. Around 30,000 people attend the event each year, which costs approximately one million Reais.

Big travelers in Itacaré!

By: Bella Papadopoulou.

There is something special about whales. Everybody loves them and wants to get a glimpse, even if that glimpse is only a tail. Maybe it is their friendly behaviour or their overwhelming size. Either way, being face to face to a 16 meter long Jubarte whale is something you will never forget!

Five years ago researcher and biology student, Nayane Rosetti Pinto, started making daily boat trips out into the blue in order to see the Jubarte whale in close-up. The whales come to the warm waters of Itacaré to reproduce and stay – just like a long vacation – from July to November each year.

After this time spent along the Brazilian coastline they migrate back to Antarctica which lies approximately 4000km away. With an average speed of 42km/day it takes them about 2 months to get there, where they will stay (mainly to eat loads of shrimp) until next July.

No one knows with certainty why they choose this place to reproduce in, but some theories believe it to be the currents and the temperature of the water. But hey, doen´t everybody want to live in Itacaré?

Seeing these creatures from such a close distance is quite an emotional thing. Betinha Yonashiro went on this trip and was amazed by what she saw.

”When I saw the mother whale playing with her newborn child I felt like crying. It was an amazing thing to witness” she says.

Nayane that has been meeting the whales almost daily for the past five years, feel like it is her first time every day.

”It is something very special and emotional to see these sweet and friendly creatures. It is fun because they are also very curious to see us people” she says.

Nayane Rosetti Pinto

But it is not only the whales that make this day trip fun and special, it is the whole atmosphere on the boat. A happy crew, fresh served fruit, tranquil bossa nova tunes along with turquoise water and an always shining sun is a recipe for a great passage.

The usual moves that one can expect them to make are waving or clapping of the tail, swimming close to the surface, peeking out the whole head or jumping high above the surface.

Many wonder if there is a kind of guarantee of spotting a whale and as Nayane says ”it is not a planned thing as all animals have their own routines but it has never happened to her in all these years that they went out without seeing anything”.

You can find more information about the trips on their Facebook page or contact Nayane at nayanerosetti@hotmail.com.