Sleepy Rural Town Rocks to the Samba Beat!
Early Monday morning the town square is still populated with crowds of people. This time the scene is of dozens of men armed with lunch boxes waiting quietly in groups in anticipation of being collected by pick-up trucks for casual work in the fields and building sites of the surrounding area. Not everyone is successful though and, after a few hours of fruitless waiting, the unlucky ones slowly wander home. Yet they will return the following day to once again re-commence the process.
But these scenes are not from some backwater village in central Brazil. This is Gort in the rural heartland of Co. Galway in the west of Ireland.
Through personal contacts, I have developed good friendships with many of the Brazilians who now constitute 33% of the town's population and who have injected a real 'tropical buzz' into Gort.
The Brazilian invasion began over 5 years ago when Duffys, the owners of the local meat processing & animal slaughter factory were forced to travel to Brazil to recruit workers. They were finding it increasingly difficult to secure local staff for this physically demanding and dirty work.
The new arrivals came from poor communities in central and southern Brazil. As the months and years rolled by, the families of the male workers followed with the result that they have now transformed the social and cultural landscape of a Gaelic countryside. Signs in some of the local shops are now in Portuguese and the local Catholic Church hosts has a monthly mass in the language. I went to one religious service last Tuesday- it was so musical, expressive and interactive that I find myself spiritually uplifted.
This year the newcomers held their second annual 'Rio carnival' which was an outstanding success. The Brazilian women spend lots of time knitting and sewing up sparkling dress wear for the parade's participants.
Recently, the south Americans opened two shops (Real Brasil & Tabor Brasil) on the main street selling food and other domestic produce.