Recently there has been a trend, particularly in Brazil, to denote certain cultural practices as well as part of society's heritage - a type of immaterial patrimony, since there is no structure or geographical feature to be protected. But in today's world of converging cultures, unique cultural practices are seen to be in danger, just as are monuments, palaces, historic villages and natural wonders.
Flavors of Brazil has previously posted articles about Brazil's recognition of the practice of selling acarajé on the streets of Salvador as an integral part of Bahian culture (click here to read more). This practice was recognized by Brazil's federal department of culture through the department's cultural patrimony agency, Iphan.
It's not only Brazil's federal government, however, that recognizes the importance of immaterial practices in defining a place's culture. The city of Rio de Janeiro also maintains a list of protected practices - things that play an important role in what makes Rio what it is. For the munical government, Rio de Janeiro is not just beaches and hills, the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, and the graphic sidewalks of Copacabana and Ipanema. It's also the rhythm of the samba, the dance called funk, and the annual orgy of pleasure called Carnaval.
|Mayor Paes (in white shirt) with mate vendors|
In his proclamation this week, Mayor Paes summed up the cultural importance of these vendors: "Rio is made up of its beautiful landscapes and of its people. The people of this city are the best thing about it. The mate vendor on the beach is the face of Rio, one of the most recognizable of the city's personages. These vendors are in Rio's memory. Of our city, we all have wonderful memories:an image, an aroma, a sound. And on our beaches, one of the most important sense memories is the cry of the mate vendor selling his wares."