Em meio aos materiais de trabalho, espirômetros, computadores, caixas, nebulizadores e muito mais coisa, descobri um livro, talvez resquício da estada aqui de outro gaúcho, meu professor, há alguns anos, e que também deixou de presente o poster o que fica em frente à minha mesa, a Baía da Ganabara e o Pão de Açúcar dourados pelo final de tarde, um Rio de Janeiro que será sempre lindo a despeito dos garotinhos e rosinhas e etc.
Mas eu dizia que encontrei um livro. Um livro de fotos, para ser mais exato.
Paisagem Brasileira – Rio Grande do Sul
Ensaio fotográfico de Martin Streibel
Editora da Imagem, 1997
Prefácio do Eduardo Bueno.
A Visual Narrative
What you get is what you see – no more, no less.
How many Rio Grandes are there, by the way? It surely depends on who is seeing it – or counting it. The geographers usually divide the southermost state of Brazil in six regions. The most visionary, wise and poetic of them all, though, was content with just five. In his classic and venerable book ‘Fisionomia do Rio Grande’ – first published in 1942 – the jesuit Balduíno Rambo divided the state in coast, southeast sierra, southwest plains, central depression and the high plateau. On the other hand, in more recent times, the brilliant herbalist, geographer, historian and nativist poet Barbosa Lessa decided to cut the land into smaller pieces and came out with what he called The Twelve Rio Grandes.
“People use to say that Rio Grande is a very beautiful place”
“OK, it’s really beautiful. So, why they don’t know it? Why do they hardly travel here, unless they need to do so? Why is it all wasted?”
Down here (as up there, actually), most people would prefer to go to Orlando or Cancun. Test yourself: when was the last time that you visited the Missões – if indeed you’ve ever been there? Which travel agency can take you to the unspoilt savage beauty of the Yucuman – one of the few horizontal waterfalls in this world? Did you ever hike throught the peaks and woods of the southeast sierra? Have you ever seen the petrified forest of Mata? Would you like to make a historical tour through the spots where many Gaucho revolutions took place? If so, you’ll have to study and do everything by yourself.
Like the rest of the country to which it belongs, Rio Grande do Sul seens unable to produce mythology out of it’s own history, out of it’s own land. So many sagas, so many lifes, so many places – so few visions. But, after all, where does Rio Grande begin?
Like the rest of Brazil, the state of Rio Grande do Sul first came into the pages of history – at least in it’s principal version – through it’s coastline. Despite being distant, ungrateful, almost deliberately cruel, the ocean, even unwillingly, was thw opening door for civilization in this southern region. The southern coastline, so different from the generous coves of Bahia, with their sparkling sand, warm water and opalescent waves surging close to the vegetation, has always denied safe harbours for colonizers.
The land was baptized, in 1531, by captain Martim Afonso de Souza; and almost on the same day as he became its godfather, his ship sank at Chui. It would be the first, but by no means the last, to be wrecked on thos coast, which was to become a ship’s graveyard. All of Rio Grande’s historical destiny was drawn by the meanness of its coastline.
In the early days of the XVIII century, Salvador, Olinda, Recife and Rio were already large colonial cities, exhaling greed and swet odours. Rio Grande do Sul still belonged to the winds and to the sand, to be rich pastures and tp th chimarrao catle, to the ostriches and to the wild natives. All because there were no harbours. If many people think that Rio Grande do Sul does not seem located in Brazil, we cannot go against them: in a country with six thousand kilometers of tropical beaches, the part that was left to Rio Grande do Sul, in this vast maritime land, is, simply, the straighest coatsline in the world. It is so long that it begins in Laguna, Santa Catarina, and end in Punta del Este, Uruguay. There six hundred and fifty withou a single shelter, any cove, bay or geographical fault. A coast of skeletons, twin sister of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, as they formed one continent in the ancient times, before the continental drift.
Although the separation ocurred around 200 milion years ago, it is exactly at the coast that the most recent chapter of the geological history of Rio Grande do Sul was – actually, is being – written. Looking at the immense coastal plain from the top of the Aparados da Serra, the observer is able to almost glimpse the cosmic process happening: 1,000,000 years ago the sea would break against the foot of the sierra. The water of Atlantic ocean, full of sand, deposited it grain by grain on the big ocean sandbank of the continental plataform. Throughout time the coast raised – although some spaces have not been filled by land, but by lagoons.
What a strange coastline, this one. After the coastal plain was formed the shoreline has changed places several times: during the glacial period the ocean was 30km farther from the current coast; the glaciation finished, the ocean returned time and again to touch the foot of the sierra. The landscape, clearly subtropical, seems to make an appeal for seclusion, introspection. The gaucho coastline is a good place for hibernation.
Looking at those beaches one can easily imagine Fathers João Lobato e Jerônimo Rodrigues walking with their cassocks blowing in the wind, without shelter and persevering in hteir mission to reach the Carijós. In 1605, Lobato and Rodrigues left Laguna on foot, on order to catechise the “best heathen of the coast”. They reached Gravatai and became the first writers to describe the region in detail. “The land itself is not bad”, they wrote. In 1725, João de Magalhães, son-in-law of the founder of Laguna, Francisco de Brito Peixoto, went on the same route followed by 30 men. This expedition originated the occupation of the fields of Viamao. The first human beings to occupy these intemperate sand dunes, though, were the people of the sambaquis, around 6.000 years ago.