11 November 2013

A Little Fishing Village

The famous Three Fishermen, by C. Motta
Búzios gets a lot of mileage out of the wistful, romantic idea it has of itself as a "little fishing village" with colorful fishing boats bobbing on the gentle waves and humble but happy fishermen setting out at the crack of dawn for the day’s catch. It is an idea that is perpetuated and exploited by anyone and everyone in the tourism business here, from the official city government tourist bureau to hotels and pousadas and restaurants. It is an idea that is splashed all over publicity material and Web sites, and it still works like the charm it’s meant to be. Fraud? Not really. Even though Búzios is way more than just a little fishing village nowadays, there’s no question but that you can still see traces of the life that late they led*.

Colônia dos Pescadores
The fishermen of today — and yes, there are still many active fishermen — enjoy a prestige here slightly out of proportion to their role in the town’s development into a swanky international resort. They have statues in their honor, as pictured above, they have a street named for them, the Travessa dos Pescadores, and inumerable bars and restaurants bear names with the word "pescadores" in them somewhere. There’s also a Colônia dos Pescadores, built in 1957, once a bustling hub of fishing-related activities, and now an interactive visitor’s center for Búzios’s Coral Reef Park. And it certainly didn’t hurt the electability of the first two mayors of Búzios — Mirinho and Toninho, as they are called — that they were "sons of fishermen." No great surprise to anyone that each candidate used his pedigree to great effect.

Down the beach from our house is the Associação dos Pescadores, which shares space with a restaurant called the Bar dos Pescadores. The restaurant has changed hands several times, but new owners have always been wise enough to keep a very special part of Búzios’ fishing village history on display: a series of remarkable portraits, oil on canvas, painted by an artist known simply as Hugo. He called his work collectively "the brave men of the sea." These portraits hang between closet doors, where the fishermen from the Associação store their nets and fishhooks. If you look hard enough — behind the newly-built, walled condominiums, beside the hulking cruise ships moored offshore, around in back of the high-end, boutique hotels — you can still find that bucolic fishing village that drew you here in the first place.

Here are some of the "brave men of the sea" — 

*With apologies to Cole Porter, composer & lyricist, Where is the Life That Late I Led, from the musical Kismet

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