The Parkville neighborhood was home to samba on Sunday.
The annual Brazilian Day parade and festival on Park Street - in honor of Brazil's Independence Day, Sept. 7 - included 10 motorcyclists, a Portuguese accordion band, a handful of Latin American studies students from Central Connecticut State University, two beauty queens from the Miss Brasil USA pageant, and, gleefully, nine male and female samba dancers in platform high heels.
They wore tall feathered headdresses in blue and red and orange, showed bare stomachs and gold about the neck and chest, and used Park Street partly as a catwalk. A Hartford police cruiser trailed the dancers, along with a few wide-eyed people holding up digital cameras. Dozens watched from the sidewalks. At one point, a dancer dropped something plastic to the asphalt.
"Your sword!" a Hartford firefighter called out.
Vilmar Figueiredo,executive director of the Shaheen Brazilian Cultural Center, which organized Brazilian Day, estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 Brazilians live in the Hartford area. But he said the population has begun to taper off, mainly because of immigration laws.
"I know a lot of people are going home," Figueiredo said.
Daniel Vallerius, a 23-year-old exchange student from the city of Porto Alegre in the southern Brazilian state Rio Grande do Sul, is returning home in December after a semester at Central Connecticut State University. On Sunday, he seemed to be the man of the afternoon among his American peers.
"In Brazil, in samba, they usually use a little bit less clothes," Vallerius noted. The dancers were now in a circle in front of the festival's stage near the Dorothy Street intersection.
Jalina Adams, a 20-year-old CCSU junior, hugged Vallerius and said she was at the festival with two classmates and two professors, in part, to make Vallerius and another Brazilian exchange student "feel a little more at home."
But there was another reason, too: Adams is studying in Brazil next semester. So is Jean Van Bourgondien, 20, who knows bits of Portuguese, and Nicole Heroy, a 21-year-old history and anthropology major from Deep River, who has taken two semesters worth of Portuguese at CCSU and considers herself "conversational but not fluent."
Organizers at the festival mostly spoke in their native language to roughly 250 people in the crowd.
"I think we're starting to realize that we need to learn fast," Heroy said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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