Monday, December 12, 2011

On the Road - Jericoacoara (Pt. 3)

"Don't go to the bar, it'll come to you."

Getting to Jericoacoara is difficult, getting a drink once you get there is not. Should you be thinking that a beer or a caipirinha sounds like a good idea, chances are that all you need to do is look around you and you'll find just what you're looking for. Like everywhere else in Brazil, licensing laws regulating who may sell alcoholic drinks - when, where and for how much - are non-existant, at least in practice. There is a fairly strict law regarding selling alcohol to minors, and most establishments make an effort to follow that regulation, but otherwise, there's no one to tell anyone else that they may not sell alcoholic beverages.

It's a world away from the highly-controlled system of selling alcohol that exists in many European and North American countries. In Canada, my home country, laws tell a potential publican or a restaurant owner when sales of alcohol are allowed, how much space each patron needs, what size the drinks must be, and the minimum selling price. They even have laws restricting and controlling the volume of recorded music and whether live music is permitted. This is worlds away from the Brazilian system, best described with a French phrase, laissez-faire.

Jericoacoara is no exception to the Brazilian rule. For example, one of the favorite daily activities in Jericoacoara for tourists and locals alike is to ascend the mountainous sand dune at the edge of town just before sunset and from the top to watch the sun set in the sea. It's a ritual that few tourists to Jeri would dare to omit. Getting to the top of the dune involves a steep climb in soft sand - not an easy feat. But it's no problem for cocktail vendors, who push their wheelbarrows to the top of the dune and offer beer and mixed drinks from a styrofoam tub at very reasonable prices. Watching the orange globe of the sun setting in the Atlantic ocean with a fresh caipirinha at hand is an iconic Jericoacoara activity.
Climbing the dune at sunset

Dune-top "bar"

As darkness settles in, Jeri's main beach becomes a moveable feast, as vendors set up moveable stands selling popcorn, meat kebabs, tapioca and other snacks. Along side the food stands, portable bars are set up offering a massive cocktail menu - mostly involving some mixture of tropical fruit and spirits. Drinks are mixed on site and are served in plastic cups with a straw, so that customers can walk the beach or wander the streets of Jeri with their drink in hand. Convenient, and to our minds, highly civilized.

In Brazil, even with this free-flowing tap of alcohol it's unusual to see really drunk people on the streets, or beaches, or in the bar. Brazilians love to get tipsy, which makes them animated, loud, musical and friendly. They don't really like to carry drinking to the point of belligerance, maudlinity or oblivion. Perhaps it's in those places where alcohol is treated like something dangerour or sinful that people, for whatever reason, like to drink themselves silly. Who knows. But Jeri's open and uncontrolled bars would seem to indicate so - we witnessed not one single person who'd seriously overindulged.

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