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vendredi 11 septembre 2015


I had a wonderful day at USP- University of Sao Paolo. The visit was a sort of homage to Claude Levi-Strauss, the illustrious French Jewish Anthropologist who came here in 1934 to begin Social Sciences courses at the fledgling USP, when Sao Paolo was just a small city. And at the end of Avenida Paulista there were agricultural fields!
 Now it is the third biggest city on the planet (after Tokyo and New York) and certainly a highly charged intellectual life, much like Buenos Aires or La Habana, but more than Mexico City or Bogota, the other intellectual contenders.
I have a book of photographic memoirs of Claude Levi Strauss, Saudades do Brasil and of course in France, he is still a household name, six years after his death at age 100.
Today is 21 August 2015. Just three days ago, on 18th August 2015, I was sitting next to a French lady with an infant on her lap, on a small boat speeding up the Colombian Amazon coast towards Puerto Nariño.

Everything has a connection, the Indians had taught me.
On arrival in Sao Paolo (Tabatinga to Manaus, change planes to Sao Paolo and long bus ride into the city), I reconnected with Lygia F R whom I had met in 2002 or 2003 and we strode off in the metro towards USP, in the company of her 7 year old son who goes to school nearby.
Lygia is one of those women who are interested in all matters of knowledge. An architect by profession, she specialized as a post graduate student on Islamic Architecture. At the Blue House, among the UmonHon Indians, there hangs a painting of hers, of a mosque in Isfahan. (Needless to say she is interested in Iranian movies, and each year Sao Paolo has a week of Iranian Movies!)
We communicate in a mixture of languages: Portugese, Spanish and English as we walked towards the Division of Arqueologia e Etnologia of the Department of History at USP. As we were discussing the Amazonas, I casually mentioned that a professor from USP had given a talk recently in Leticia in Colombia. She was delighted to hear that, and asked, would you like to meet him, if he is in his office?
I was quite excited. A Meskwakia elder had one said to me: Do not go seeking people; those who you need to meet would appear.
Certainly Eduardo is one of them.

He had taken the night flight from Manoas, arriving that morning and had come directly to work looking disheveled after the 3 ½ hour flight that leaves Manaos at 1 30 am, I had taken that flight just the day before.
We immediately hit it off. We looked like brothers meeting after a long absence. We had so many things in common. He speaks both English and Spanish fluently in addition to his native Portugese. First of all, the origin of his name, GOES, means someone from GOA, and immediately we knew that somehow or other we were historically connected! I told him about Gaspar da Gama, the Jew from Goa and Cochin, who was with Pedro Alvares Cabral when he was blown off course, and “discovered’ Brasil!
And of course, we have Amazon Indians in common. He has theories as to why the Indians chose to live in certain areas, did not produce great structures like the Inca or Maya or Olmec or Aztec. The same had been puzzling the North American Archeologists why there are no great remnants of monuments in North America, where they had lived for millennia.
We both agreed that the ecology did not permit the North American or Amazon Indians to build, both groups were nomadic and that involves movement whereas the carvers and stone masons were stationary (but not sedentary).
We had such a warm conversation that I was reluctant to leave. I wanted to see two anthropological exhibitions on campus: Arte Rupestre (25 000 year old rock paintings from Mato Grosso) and another on the 19th century French explorers of the Amazon, especially Monsieur Hercule (Antoine Hercule Romuald Florence, whose name is associated with photographie, a word he coined).

We quietly waked through the exhibition and Lygia took me by bus to the Metro Station Botante and I was back at Maksoud Plaza hotel in time to catch the bus to the airport via Praca Republica...
Another adventure was just beginning... Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg and Cochin...