Love / Occult / Places & Travel / Society & Culture

Finding Salvation in São Paulo, Brazil

“Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.” Frank O’Hara

In the thralls of heartbreak there are two choices: drink yourself to death or embrace possibility. Fresh off the heels of a romantic Armageddon, I was desperate for a change of scenery. Then as if by fate, I received a padded white envelope in the mail, inside there was a book entitled, The Spiritual Rules of Engagement: How Kabbalah Can Help Your Soul Mate Find You, along with an invitation from an old friend to come visit São Paulo. If ever there was a cosmic intervention, this was it. And so I booked a flight to Brazil in hopes of finding God knows what.

With over 12 million inhabitants, São Paulo is Brazil’s largest city. It’s gritty, aggressive, imposing and overpopulated- the perfect place to unhinge and recharge. The wealth disparity in Brazil is massive, creating a palpable social tension. São Paulo is a city where the upper and lower classes are strictly stratified; the rich live in gated compounds and drive bulletproof cars. There’s a perverse charm to a culture that so blatantly expresses its economic rupture; it’s completely unAmerican and surprisingly sexy. Amid this stifling classism I felt invigorated.

Photographing God. My first trip to São Paulo, 2010

Photographing God. My first trip to São Paulo, 2010

My Brazilian hosts were cosmopolitan, attractive and gracious and donned thin red bracelets around their left wrists—a talisman to ward off evil spirits. Sensing my need for a spiritual reawakening, they brought me to the Kabbalah Centre where I would meet with Jonathan, an elegant and soft spoken Israeli and Kabbalah teacher. Jonathan reviewed my astrological chart and explained that because I was born on a day of intense energy and flux I was prone to extreme mood swings and indecision. Apparently my manic depression was simply a result of the Zodiac.

In short, Kabbalah reaffirms that consciousness creates reality and that to attain peace one must develop a proactive way of living. Happiness is contingent on recognizing that our thoughts have a direct effect on what we manifest. And by cultivating a relationship with the Divine, we can transcend.  I was encouraged to put these concepts into practice by developing consciousness and trusting that if I gave of myself, unexpected forces would come to my aid.

That night I was summoned by a charming Italian I’d met my first day in SP whose penchant for flattery and love of Jean-Michel Basquiat had won me over. He offered to take me to San Pedro beach (a 45 minute drive from the city) so that I could see more of Brazil than the concrete walls of São Paulo. I agreed and the next day we were off!  In retrospect it’s a miracle I wasn’t murdered. But in moments like these, it’s best to channel your inner Blanche DuBois, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

The beach was tucked behind mountains with jagged rocks breaking the surf, it was SUBLIME. So much so, that despite my deep fear of drowning I jumped into the frigid Atlantic. Immediately I was struck dumb by heavy waves. As soon as I’d catch my breath another would hit, and then another. It was a primal reception into Brazilian waters and I was cleansed. In an instant, all the psychic bile I’d been carrying around was washed away.

Marilyn Monroe Ocean Bunny

The rest of my trip was rife with extraordinary levity. There were laugh attacks, park strolls, Nirvana remixes, hotel room rendez-vous, Caipirinhas, motorbikes and full moons. It was an urban adventure filled to the brim with moments of exquisite glamour. Cacooned inside São Paulo’s frenetic pulse, I was reminded of the pleasures of  living.

In The Right to Manifest Manifesto, CA Conrad writes “Anyone who ever fed you, loved you, anyone who ever made you feel unworthy, stupid, ugly, anyone who made you express doubt or assuredness, every one of these helped make you.”  I don’t know if the men I’ve loved were summoned by cosmic witchcraft or if they came into my life by chance, but either way I’m grateful. Because with every heartbreak, with every death of love, comes the freedom to become myself again.

***

Nathalia Perozo is a Chilean born poet and LGBT advocate. She received her MFA from The New School, and her BA in Comparative Literature from Queens College. Nathalia lives in New York City.

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4 thoughts on “Finding Salvation in São Paulo, Brazil

  1. Matilde Heylen comentó: La elección de citar a Joseph Conrad en el contexto del texto es excelente. Me hizo pensar también en el libro de Margaret Atwood “Surfacing”.

    • I know! I loved this, especially because I went to Brazil earlier this year. It taught me SO much about life, too. Gorgeous writing, Nathalia. ” In retrospect it’s a miracle I wasn’t murdered. But in moments like these, it’s best to channel your inner Blanche DuBois, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Love!

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