Instant Tourist Attraction

Sarah Coyne - Brazil

September 12, 2011

I pretty much get constant stares anywhere I go on the streets of Salvador. My blonde hair blue-eyed status is something quite foreign in a place where around eighty percent of the population is Afro-Brasilian, and I’m pretty sure my khaki pants and chaco sandals do not help my cause. Needless to say, I attract looks from the locals.

It is interesting to see how people react towards me on the bus or in the street, because not only am I the typical white American – fair skin than burns within ten minutes of sun exposure – I am also a female who is petite in size. I contract glares from those in and outside the downtown areas of Pelourinho – once  a capoeira maestre had the urge to say “baixoina” (meaning short one), patting me on the head as he grinned, chuckling at his own clever comment – and sometimes I am given special tourist treatment to the vendors on the streets of Rio Vermelho, the neighborhood where I currently reside.

Today while walking back to the hostel, I decided to take a shortcut through the coconut stands when a man yells “ ay, gringa, uns cocos?”  and I reply with an assured “não, obrigada,” but the man couldn’t resist. He started walking toward me, getting close to my face, ready to hand me a coconut for me to claim and pay him for when I quickly turned away, continuing my journey back to my hostel, thankful that he didn’t persist and that I was able to stand my ground.

If this confrontation means that I must lose the chacos and stop wearing my “I Love Rutherfordton” t-shirt in public just so I can learn to blend into Brasilian life, I am very excited for this transition. The more I am able to dress like a Brasilian and speak Portuguese, the more I am able to convey my real self to others – otherwise I may never be taken seriously. I want to host the possibility of being apart of something truly real and meaningful not by giving up who I currently am, but rather embrace another part of who I wish to become.

Sarah Coyne