Continuing from where I left off last week, Marcello took us to the Masonic Lodge in Santa Barbara d’Oste where many of the relics of the original lodge founded by the Americans are displayed. I especially wanted to see the pillars of the lodge which were carved by one of the Americans from two trees when the lodge was founded. It was incredible to see and touch these relics of the immigrants to this part of the world. The original Lodge jewels are missing, and Marcello believes they were buried at the Campo Cemetery or hidden in the chapel. The reason is not known.
The Lodge was meeting that evening and Marcello invited me to attend. Like most lodges this one has a meal before their stated meeting. To my delight they were having “fishwater” or “Feijoada” the bean and meat stew that I wrote about. I could bring my camera and take photos, something normally frowned upon.
Some of the brothers were snickering and laughing my way and I was told that there are two lodge brothers that look alike and they call them “the brothers” they decided that I was the third brother. Only one of them came to the meeting, and I did get a photo with him. Oddly enough, I will admit, we could pass as brothers.
They loaned me a black robe and an apron for the meeting. It is much like our lodge meetings with a few differences. Marcello sat next to me and interpreted everything for me. I was made most welcome by the brothers, and they graciously posed for a group photo with me. Several of the brothers are also now social media friends. This was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip for me. They presented me a card signed by the officers to present my home lodge showing that I had made an international visit.
They had a basket for members to drop some cash to help cover the cost of the meal. They told me that I was welcome to drop some American bills if I liked, but “please no Lincolns.” I have noticed a lot of Southerners don’t like the Lincolns or the Grants, some folks don’t like the Jacksons, but the Franklins seem to be just fine with everyone.
Our next outing was with Cesar, Adrianna, and Washington Wavvar. Washington is fluent in English and interviewed me on my first trip for Tudo-Up, a popular morning Brazil TV program. We went to the town of Águas de São Pedro where I did some more shirt shopping for friends, we caught a western store and roamed around the town. One park area has indoor fountains and pools reminiscent of what one might see in Rome. Along the way we stopped at a park with giant masonic emblems honoring Freemasonry.
We again ascended to the top of another mountain to a bee farm. They had a store with a giant bee on top. It was surrounded by coy ponds and a park-like setting. Inside was a display where bees were coming to fill hives inside glass. Their shelves were honeycomb-shaped displays with a wide rage of honeys in various sized containers. They had honey ice creams and samples of honey on the counter. They had caps, T-shirts and a variety of bee and honey items to sell.
One item Gwen had suggested I try was ice cream that tastes like sweet corn. I did, and it was incredibly good. In Brazil everything is either corn or sugar, it seems. They do use a lot of rice with meals.
We had an opportunity to visit some of the farms settled by the Americans still in the families. One stop was the farm of Cicero Carr and family on which Albert Carr from Alabama settled. The Carrs still grow hay and raise cattle, but the main product of the operation is various sizes and varieties of landscape trees, mostly palms. The original homestead is now the operations office. They have their own little family museum in the office. Seeing wagons loaded with hay in a shed, I went exploring to get a look at the hay and how they stacked it. I also wanted to check out the machinery.
I was surprised to find a Ford tractor painted John Deere green and yellow. Asking about this, I found that Deere didn’t hold a patent in Brazil and since green and yellow were popular colors in Brazil, Ford painted their tractors manufactured there green and yellow. The national colors of Brazil are? You got it!
We toured the ancestral home of Robert Cullen, and it was here that I did the unthinkable. I drank the water. It was very hot and dry, and I was parched. Gwen did the same thing, saying, “I know where we will be at 2 a.m.” We did not get sick from the water. Roberto showed us some of the original churches the Americans helped build on that outing.
That evening, the Hellmeisters picked us up at the hotel and took us to Americana and their home to visit and dine. It was a lovely evening and was great to spend some time with them. Remember that book I said that I would have liked to carry off? Jorge handed me that exact book saying “for you!” Mine was about Americana and he gave Gwen and Rex one about Santa Barbara d’Oste. The two cites are now only 5 miles apart but share the same history.
Another evening we were invited to a local couple’s home to dine. We had happened to run into them in the grocery store. They are both doctors and live in a newly built home. I had noticed the well-placed palms in the lawn of the newly landscaped home wondering where they came from and the visit to the Carrs’ had answered that for me. The doctors were cousins of Adrianna, and she and Cesar as well as other American descendant families were there. Cesar, being the gentleman, brought me a glass of Pinga! Gwen told him, “no more Pinga for Tim.”
We spent a lot of time visiting western stores looking for a bull whip Rex wanted to get for one his buddies. This buddy, who is a master with a bull whip, had told Rex he would love to have a Brazilian bull whip as they are the best made. Rex found them and bought one for his buddy, himself and me. They are hard like those grocery store dog chews. You have to oil them and work them, make them soft and pliable, an extension of yourself we were told. Mine is rolled up in the closet and I saw at Christmas that is where Rex’s is too.
Johnny Voxx, his wife, mother-in-law and new baby came by the hotel to visit. It was great spending some time with my singing Pal. Johnny was not on the program at the Festa this year so we had to visit when he was available. The hotel folks got excited when the music star came in the door.
We were here for the Festa and visiting our many friends there. The Saturday before the event finally rolled around and we were on the grounds helping prepare. I should say Gwen and Rex were shucking corn and I was visiting and taking pictures. I had a long list of friends that wanted T-shirts, coffee cups and the like. Our Brazillian friends told me to go ahead and get what I wanted, and I could pay the next day. I had bought plates and cups, and glasses with the distinctive logos the first trip. This time I was getting shirts and items I didn’t get the last trip. I also picked up some new books. On my first trip the merchandise had went quickly and I didn’t get everything I wanted.
A lady was cooking Brazilian Pastels as I watched and made a few pictures. She wanted to know if I wanted one and I did but was uncertain of how to pay for it. She told me, “your money is no good here.” She fixed a special beef one just for me and it was so, so good. The next day I went back for a shrimp pastel with the intention of paying for both. She again told me that my money was no good there.
I was asked to raise the American flag during the opening festivities, the Confederate one. I once more had a lovely Lady escort, raised the flag and appeared on stage with the mayors, governor and other dignitaries.
I spent a lot of time with my Rebel Biker friends giving them those Tennessee State Flag patches I brought. Lucci Reple the national president gave me the hat off his head, and the pin off his vest. The president of the Sao Paulo Rebel Bikers gave me his pin as well. Since I was wearing my biker vest “The Confederadoes” another biker group wanted me to be on stage and in their photo, too. I spent a lot of time with the bikers as I myself now fancied myself to be a biker. I do have one in the garage.
When we arrived Saturday, the girls were practicing their dance routines and my buddy Laisa came running when she saw me. She and younger sister Larissa both participated, Larissa in the South Carolina State dress.
It was nice to catch up with Leo Padoveze a leader of the descendants fraternity as well as a college professor. He and Marcello had furnished most of the information about the Americans’ influence in Brazil I used in the first article. Leo has been sharing my Sun articles all over Brazil along with several other friends who are also sharing them. The Greeneville Sun may be the most popular out-of-country newspaper in Brazil now.
Rex had suffered a stroke a few months before our trip, and he and Gwen spent most of their time out of the sun under the tents with Father Constantine. Father was not fond of the loud music and rolled up napkins and had them sticking out of his ears like antennae.
A MOPAR car club had a Dodge Charger “General Lee” at the festa that year. I of course spent time in the cemetery and the chapel. I was asked to pose for a lot of pictures with friends, new friends and many I had no idea who they were. I again took a lot of pictures of folks of all ages having a good time. All the vendors were doing their best to make this an American party. It is a day one hopes will not end, but as in all good things, the sun sets, and the darkness comes. Peace and quiet again return to the cemetery of the Americans.
The one thing I did not get to do that Gwen and I wanted was to eat at the Tennessee Burger & Grill in Santa Barbara d’ Oste. The night we could go they were closed. They have a sandwich called “The Greenville”, yes, I let them know it should be “The GreenEville.” That is now one of my top items to do when we go back. I would like to find who else there uses the name Tennessee and displays our state flag.
Renan took us to the airport for our midnight flight back to Fort Lauderdale. We were all wiping tears as we said goodbye to our newfound friend. I had packed light going down, but found my baggage stuffed with all the extra shirts and Festa items mostly for friends. I did manage to squeeze in some packs of wafers that I liked. The airports dinged me $150 for each bag that was overweight, so those shirts and souvenirs kept getting more expensive. It was worth the cost to share some of Brazil with friends.
While I was in New Mexico at Christmas, Gwen and I talked about our next trip “way down south” to Brazil. COVID got us last year and likely will this year too. We talked about how much Rex would be missed, how it would not be the same without him along. We talked about going to Peru and then over to Brazil. Time will only tell if we will see our many family and friends again. Social media is a wonderful thing in many ways.
While in a sentimental mood we called up Father Constantine and wished him a Merry Christmas. At age 90 he decided to move back to Louisiana. It really is a small world after all. I hope you have enjoyed trailing the past, present and future in Brazil. If you ever want to go to the festa, it is always the last Sunday in April. They welcome guests with open arms, and I guarantee the time of your life.