By Laurie Carneiro
My husband (Brazilian) and I have traveled to Brazil several times over the 13 years of our marriage and this summer we finally coaxed my parents to come along. I had been talking about my in-laws, the people, the food, the beautiful mountains and coastline, etc. for years and it was a pleasure to introduce them to all things "Brazilian." We started our trip in Sao Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, visiting my husbands mother and some of his family. After a few days in the São Paulo area, we drove south into the state of Parana, amazed at how many banana plant-covered mountains we observed along the way. We stayed in Curitiba over night and stopped at the beautiful coastal town of Penha for lunch the next day. In this town we were amazed by the prices of beach-front property (compared to US prices!). We then drove further south into the state of Santa Catarina and visited the city of Blumenau (founded by Germans) and some neighboring towns.
Deciding to head back to the interior of São Paulo to visit one of my husbands sisters, we again drove through Curitiba, then on to the city of Bauru, and spent a morning shopping in Ibitinga. Finally we arrived in Jaboticabal, a town surrounded by vast sugar cane fields. This small city is the location of a university where my niece, Tatiana, is involved in her doctoral studies and she and her mother reside. (Side note: if you are ever anywhere near to Jaboticabal, you must stop at one of the ice cream stores in town and sample some of the best ice cream to be found anywhere.) My niece told me a story of about some of her American professors from the Midwest and how much they loved the ice cream. When it was time for them to return to the states, they packed the ice cream in dry ice so they could take some home!
Along with the ice cream, my husband and I were thoroughly enjoying explaining all the new sights and sounds to my parents but on our walk in the town of Jaboticabal, I witnessed something I had never seen anywhere. As we were walking around this town, we noticed many kites in the clear blue sky overhead. My husband started watching them intently, wondering aloud if they were "fighting." My dad and I looked at him in puzzlement. "What do you mean? Are the kites fighting?" we asked. My husband went on to explain that boys love to make their own kites out of anything they can find. Brazilian boys will sometimes take pieces of crushed glass and mix it with a paste of glue and then spread it on the string that is attached to the kite. The boys launch their kites into the air and then look for another kite in which to "fight."
When a potential "victim" has been located, they manipulate their kite into a position where they can cut the string of the targeted kite. If they are successful, the opponents kite string is severed and the kite is lost, flying away. As we watched the kites wiggling around each other that day, sure enough, several were "fighting." We watched them for quite a while, chasing and "attacking" each other; eventually we saw at least 3 or 4 kite strings cut.
Although the kite fighting was fascinating to watch (and probably even more fun to participate) there is a dangerous side to this sport. Even though we saw no attempts to stop it, my niece informed us that kite fighting has been outlawed in Brazil. Apparently the glass encrusted kite strings can and have caused accidents, including someone in her town who was riding a motorcycle and was caught in one of these strings and died.
As I have never seen kite fighting in the United States, I am wondering if this is a phenomenon unique to Brazil? Perhaps a "Gringoes" reader will know the answer to this!
Previous articles by Laurie:
Brazil: The Farmer of Serra Negra