A posse of Bolivians walks around in traditional, hand-embroidered garb, one of them dressed as a jet-black condor, his arms as wings, his mask with mesmerising googly eyes. A wooden priest rides past in a wooden cart pulled by wrinkled wood-coloured bulls, horns to the fore. Ecstatic kids are led around on others, while in the central sandpit arena, yet more bulls are ridden at speed in an exhilarating jousting competition.
This is Revelando São Paulo, the festival of paulista culture, now in its 50th edition and attracting an estimated two million people to the free ten-day event in Parque Vila Guilherme-Trote, celebrating food, music and culture from the countryside of São Paulo state. It’s one of those off-the-beaten-track events, with lots of cowboy flavour, violeiros, folk dance – proper rootsy stuff, by and for the people. And, for friendliness, perhaps the best festival the city has to offer.
Giant dolls in flowery dresses bob and weave through the crowd, a representation of a tradition alive in scores of religious festivals and carnivals across the state with misty origins in Iberian processions. Up on stage, folkloric dance groups representing the various immigrant communities that make up the state’s population do their thing. Hungarian women in voluminous dresses spin around rapidly while balancing half-filled wine bottles expertly on their heads.
It’s all about rescuing and representing traditions. You’ll find people dancing jongo, of Bantu origin, or shoe-steppin’ catira, derived from the old Portuguese fandango. Or there’s fandango itself, still strong on the southern coast of the state. Then again try the Batuque de Tietê, a traditional dance that orginated with African slaves, and is still alive in the municipalities of Tietê, Piracicaba and Capivari, featuring melodically named instruments like the tambú, quinjengue, matraca, guaiá and cuíca.
Over in the dining area are the scrumptious culinary characteristics of the melting pot between the indigenous people, black slaves and Portuguese colonists. Experience some old school São Paulo culture the way it used to be.