Wednesday, February 23, 2022

[FORTALEZA] Iracema's Stomping Grounds

Ceará was more of a filler for me. After São Paulo, I had, like, two or three days in between destinations. Finding a cheaper ticket from SP to Fortaleza and from Fortaleza to Belém, I thought hey one more beach won’t hurt. Besides, I needed the downtime as well. R&R pitstop, no pressures with regards to sightseeing obligations. And so, I booked an IBIS room and flew. It’s a good thing the hotel was just a few blocks away from the beaches. At least, I didn’t have to spend anything on Uber rides anymore.

Fortaleza is the capital of the state of Ceará and used to have an unenviable distinction of being a sex tourism hotspot. Shady, I know. However, the efforts by the local government to get rid of that negative connotation seem to be working. Most of what I saw at the streets and along the beaches were ongoing construction projects. It did kind of distract from the touristy appeal, but at least we know that in the near future, such efforts will defo pay off.

I guess that’s also the reason for the rather ambiguous feel overall. Like, the colonial houses are indeed from the city’s heydays, but the way they are being renovated make them look modern. That architectural ambiguity aside, Fortaleza is not to be outdone as far as contrast is concerned either. In a way, the combination of the beach, colonial heritage, and high-rise buildings farther inland makes it feel like João Pessoa lite, which in turn felt like diet Rio de Janeiro to me.

After my shift ended the next day, off I walked towards the direction of Iracema beach. From my hotel window, an attention-grabbing cathedral was visible. I never reached that church. It was just so hot outside, I spent most of the time hunting for shade. Instead, I ended up at the Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura, an area adorned with art via murals and colorful tiles as well as a street whose colonial houses are under renovation, perhaps to bring back the good vibes and heritage of the city.

I later found out that the church was a neo-Gothic metropolitan cathedral. Ok, I guess that’s the reason why it looked different. Anyway, beaches! The most popular ones were just a few blocks away from my hotel. The whole stretch from Praia do Poço da Draga all the way to Praia do Mereiles is accessible on foot. The bay walk was also under construction, which meant having to walk on the sand at some areas. Praia de Iracema is sandwiched in between, while Beira Mar plays host to the F-O-R-T-A-L-E-Z-A letters and a monument of Iracema herself.

Who or what exactly is Iracema? The name sounded so familiar. Apparently, one of the books in my bookstore loot was Iracema by José de Alencar, one of Brazil’s most important literary stalwarts who hailed from Ceará. I have not read the book yet, so I don’t know what it is about, but I do know that de Alencar is one of the major exponents of the Indianism movement in Brazilian literature. I’m looking forward to reading that particular novel of his once I’m done with my Coelho detour.

I wish I had more to say about Fortaleza but it just didn’t stand out that much from the other Brazilian cities I’ve already been to in the north/east. I guess the only upside here is that the beaches were almost empty. If you are simply looking for a Brazilian city with an urban beach that is just as stunning, then Fortaleza might be of interest to you. It’s location at the middle of the northern Brazilian states also means it’s easier to explore Northern Brazil from there.

[FORTALEZA] Iracema's Stomping Grounds

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