It is at the top of the hill of the small church of Areias that Goiás is, this time, celebrating.
The intense chants of the faithful spread through the surrounding valley. They hang over the uniform stain of Portuguese tile that the years have beautified.
The honor of the celebration goes to Barbara, the patron saint of lightning, thunder and artillerymen. As a provocation, the firefighter on duty drops reeds into the sky as if his life depended on it.
The bangs bounce off the neighboring hills of São Francisco, Canta Galo and Lages.
And, further away, in the imposing Serra Dourada. They startle some toucans that fly to the safety of the cerrado.
Inescapable and forceful, the announcement alerts the late believers who run, breathless, up Rua Passo da Pátria and the steps of the church above. It is not polite to miss the blessing of the cross and the procession has long since reached its final stop.
The same thing that happened to Goiás Velho, as the village is also called from time to time.
Goiás Velho: from Arraial de Sant'Anna to the State Capital
This city of Goiás with twenty-six thousand inhabitants originated in 1732, in the heart of the Brazilian cerrado.
Located on 15º latitude, it has always been hot all year in Goiás.
In winter – from May to September – it doesn't rain, the air is clear and the sky remains blue, sprinkled with small white clouds. “'It's getting cold at night!” residents complain every day in July and August, despite the fact that the temperature almost never drops below 15 degrees.
The summer, which lasts the remaining months, welcomes the rainy season, when it is almost always cloudy and it rains with frequency and intensity, sometimes surprising.
About fifty years after their success in Minas Gerais, the pioneers who ventured into the interior of Brazil in search of precious metals and slaves found gold in the region of Goiás.
Finding will not be the best term. Believing in what has gone down in history, it will have been more than an act of illusionism.
In 1682, a flag led by the old Paulista Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva arrived in the territory of the Indians Goyaz. To their delight, the natives used gold artefacts.
Little diplomacy but an expert in cruelty and deceit, the anhanguera (Old devil) – as the Goiá nation would, however, nickname him, he tried to intimidate the natives. He lit some cachaça on a plate.
Aware that the Goiás they thought it was water, and threatened that he would do the same with all the rivers in the vicinity if the Indians did not reveal their gold mines to him. Three years later, despite being presumed dead, the old devil returned triumphantly to São Paulo.
With him, the survivors, gold and Indian slaves from Goiás traveled.
In 1722, his namesake son, who had survived the first onslaught, organized a new flag and launched the camp of Sant'Anna.
In 1732, this arraial marked the establishment of the town with the same name, renamed Vila Boa de Goiaz in a sarcastic homage to the region's native inhabitants, extinguished by the invaders even before the gold, which only lasted until the end of the XNUMXth century.
Every city has a history. Goiás seems to be yours.
Even the epithet “old” helps to illustrate the phenomenon. This, despite the fact that part of the population finds it more derogatory than necessary (to distinguish it from the homonymous state of which it is a part.
Little or nothing has changed since it became the capital of the newly created Captaincy of Goiás and reached its apogee.
In order to preserve its peculiar architecture, the transfer of the state capital to Goiânia in 1937 was decisive, a relegation that left it lost in time.
The Colonial House that is World Heritage
As described by UNESCO, which granted Goiás the title of world heritage in December 2001, “… your urban design it is a remarkable example of the organic development of a mining city, adapted to the conditions of the area (…) of a European city admirably adapted to the climatic, geographical and cultural conditions of central South America”.
From any of its panoramic points, especially the belfry of the church of Rosário or the hill of the church of Areias, these attributes can be observed.
The houses that stand out from the green of the tropical vegetation are uniform. Built in adobe, mud and wattle and daub, the houses are almost all one-story. Those that deviate from the rule have a maximum of two floors.
They are also painted white, with the exception of the doors, windows and frames whose colors depend on the owners' disposition.
On the other hand, the narrow streets, invariably covered by an irregular pavement made of huge gray stones, cause frequent sprains.
Gradually, they also ruin the cars of the most fearless drivers.
Some public buildings differ in size, especially the Conde dos Arcos Palace, the hospital and the Quartel do Vinte, from which soldiers from the XNUMXth Infantry Battalion departed for the Paraguayan War.
In spaces, there are still imposing mansions with manorial coats of arms.
The Museum of Sacred Art of Boa Morte and the Figure of Veiga Valle
It is blessed by seven baroque churches, especially the one of Boa Morte, built in 1779 and on the site of the Museum of Sacred Art of Boa Morte, installed there since 1961. The museum exhibits numerous works by José Joaquim da Veiga Valle, a prestigious sculptor from Goiás.
Inside, two ladies of respectable age clean and invent figurines and other sculptures of sacred art with soul and heart. They had to do it all afternoon. That one, and eventually some of the ones that followed.
Most of the works they dealt with were by another of the renowned artists of the state of Goiás, José Joaquim da Veiga Valle. Veiga Valle, as he became known, was born in 1806 in the neighboring and somewhat rival city of Arraial da Meia Ponte, today the famous Pirenópolis.
In Meia Ponte, he played a leading role in the government and administration of the city. He was a councilor, judge, military. Later, Veiga Valle joined the association of Catholic faithful of the Irmandade do Santíssimo Sacramento.
He participated in successive tasks of gilding the altars of the city's mother church. It was on these occasions that he gained greater intimacy with the fillings of churches and felt the self-taught inspiration to create them.
As he perfected his craft, his cedar wood carvings won him admirers and loyal customers. And a guaranteed place in the naves of Meia Ponte.
Some time later, Veiga Valle moved to Vila Boa de Goiás. The churches of Goiás Velho also welcomed his works.
One would expect that Veiga Valle would have created them in a neoclassical style, but instead he kept the obvious baroque mannerisms.
Scholars of religious art attribute this to the fact that both Meia Ponte and Goiás were thousands of kilometers away from the great Brazilian colonial cities.
And, as such, on the fringes of the newly arrived currents of the Metropolis.
Fears Founded on thefts of Sacred Art
When we enter the Museum of Sacred Art of Boa Morte, both armed with cameras, the two ladies on duty show an immediate panic. “But what do you want these photos for?
People here in Goiás don't like that. You know that there have been several assaults on churches and they have made some art disappear that was more than sacred! Then, if you photograph and promote it, we will have even more problems.”
We understand your distress. It was not even the first time that we were faced with such concerns. We calmly reiterated that we were Portuguese and promised that, if used, the images would only come out in Portugal and only on paper, we would not disseminate them on the internet.
It was enough for the ladies to reassure themselves and grant us some exemplary photos and a disclosure that, even if many of the inhabitants resist admitting, the city lacks.
Goiás Velho's past is not only in architecture and historical heritage.
Without the postcards, magnets, dolls and other gifts that infest other trendy colonial cities in Brazil, a myriad of genuine small businesses profit in moderation on the ground floors of secular houses.
We identify them by the names and logos painted on the walls,
There are fabric, clothing and religious artefacts stores, old-fashioned pharmacies and the occasional more modern establishment that supplies new arrivals with telephones. cellular, or rent Holywood's latest unmissable hit.
At the same time, well-heeled businessmen such as the shoe shiner or the lottery ticket seller travel through Goiás.
Whatever the activity, with the end of the afternoon, businesses close doors and boxes.
Residents return to their homes. They meet at the entrance of churches, waiting for the start of mass or, on street corners, to chat.
The Past of Goiás, Everywhere
We went around a fierce game taking place on the lawn of Praça Brasil Caiado. Next to its huge Fountain of Tail, we come across a teenager playing with a dog.
Between parties to the “Chacal”, conversation leads to conversation, Sebastião ends up informing us: “I am the great-great-grandson of Bartolomeu Bueno (son), the founder of Vila Boa. I've lived here all my life and so has my family. We never left here.”
Further down, it is Zé Pires – who is at least three times Sebastião's age – who addresses us: “Are you doing material? This city is full of stories! (...)
There are a lot of people who still try their luck with gold, through that savannah.
Sometimes it even shows up in Rio Vermelho, but it's almost always just a worthless little spot! You can't take it to the Foundry”.
And tie his horse to a tree to better recall his memory.
The Well Viva History of Goiás
When the material testimonies are not available, the population itself refers to the Minas Gerais era of Goiás.
Sebastião is a descendant of the Paulistas; Zé Pires, probably from Emboadas, the immigrants who came from Portugal attracted by the gold of Minas Gerais and moved to the center of Brazil.
They are both white. But most of the city's inhabitants are black or mulatto, with blood from African slaves recruited to work in the mining industry.
He lives and lives in the same humble houses built by his ancestors with the illusion of wealth, an illusion that, in so many cases, the precipitous end of gold and the extremely high prices of products brought from far away, turned into a nightmare.
For many Vilaboenses, the situation has not improved, like Brazil in general.
Immigration from the state of Goiás to Portugal – where so many have unknown family ancestors – and other European and global destinations is accentuated. Goiás contributes with its numbers.
And history reverses itself.
Other inhabitants of Vila Boa there get away with the arts in which they stand out.
In front of Rádio FM Vilaboa, he rehearses, intently, the Trio Raio de Sol.
It is composed by Elsimar on guitar, António Robertinho on viola and Magela on accordion. Inside, in the small studio, the trio Nascente, by José Rito, Renan and Juan Mineiro, is already performing.
Life is made of these opportunities.
Even if the radio doesn't pay for the performance, who knows if the promotion doesn't take them to some country festival.
Old Goiás: No Hurry or Complex
Goiás is far from being touristy. It's true that during Holy Week and, especially, the Fogaréu Procession – the only one in Brazil – the city is on the pine cone to watch the re-enactment of the persecution of Christ by farricocos.
And the same happens with the arrival of the FICA – International Environmental Film and Video Festival, one of the biggest thematic shows in the world.
Unlike the “sisters” from Minas Gerais, Tiradentes, Diamantina and Ouro Preto, who are intensively promoted and receive thousands of interested Brazilian and foreign visitors, Goiás continues to pay the price of interiority. It stands in the shadow of its World Heritage title.
Until justice is done, the city deals with the inheritance it has received.
And enjoy your genuine and sedative life.
As the sun goes down, the old lanterns of golden light come on in a rambling sequence.
Goiás switches to its night mode. He surrenders to a peace only broken by rockets or, if it's time for celebration, chants.
The next day, the villagers wake up with the dawn to the calm pace of work that the climate of the Central Plateau helps to set.